Life as we know it

The future looks more like the past than the past did.

When I was a kid, I thought that in 2005 I would have those self lacing hi-tops from Back to the Future and be living in a Jetsons style apartment in space.

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The future

The technological advancements have been amazing. Even if I do seem remarkably underwhelmed a lot of the time.

Why can’t I Whatsapp underground? Why won’t my internet work faster if I click a thousand times every 5 seconds?

I suppose there’s a disappointed child in me that wanted the future where pizza rehydrators existed.

Despite technological advancement and surface improvements, we continue to live on shaky foundations. As an animal we’re a real show off. Look at how clever we are, we can fit a camera on a phone. But we’ll continue to perpetrate ideas of race superiority, act violently and bomb the brains out of each other, because we’re retro like that.

Maybe that’s why Lavish Reynolds chose to stream the moments following her boyfriend’s shooting. Use our technological advancements to showcase our failures as a society. We’ve failed to progress if even one person is being treated this way, let alone thousands. It’s even worse that others make excuses for it, or try to downplay serious social injustice.

Killing people is wrong. Acting out of hate and prejudice is wrong. Controlling people through fear is wrong.

It’s like that film California Man. Yes, they dressed him up so he could fit into Encino life, but he was a caveman and continued to behave that way. That’s how humanity has started looking to me; like a PG Tips advert where the chimps have gone feral.

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Let’s have a cuppa. We’re not animals.

We’ve all got a brain. We can all think. Reflect. Take responsibility for our own lives. Our own actions. Yet so many people would much rather make excuses for their behaviour. He scared me. She was provoking me. So and so says we should be wary of those people. Why don’t we just think for ourselves? Why do so many people think they are exempt from basic human decency? Why do so many people buy into the crap spouted by hateful people, blindly assuming they have our best interests at heart?

Why abdicate your own reason in favour of someone else’s?

Erich Fromm called it The Fear of Freedom. It was too much to be responsible for our own decisions and use our free will responsibly. What if we made a mistake? The majority would rather be told what to do. How to think. Where to shop. Who to blame. Then it wasn’t their fault. It was what they had been taught/told/shown.

But the ‘He told me to do it’ defence doesn’t hold up.

We advanced too fast and weren’t mentally prepared for it. But a handful of opportunists were. Peter Parker got the “With great power comes great responsibility’ talk. What did we get? Pictures of my dinner, smartphones and Kris Kardashian’s pasta primavera recipe.

Distractions.

They released the self lacing hi-tops a few months back.

Oh, how far we’ve come.

The Menstruation Myth

Period, period, period, period, period. Are you comfortable with it yet?

When I was 17 years old I tried to send my brother to the local pharmacy because I needed tampons. Before he could step out of the door I could hear a mumbled conversation and then a resounding WHAT, before he was loudly told to get upstairs and my father stormed into the living room to give me a piece of his mind.

 Little had I known that my insensitive request had nearly turned my brother gay, or worse, transgender.

I was astounded by the ignorance flowing out of the mouth of someone I respected. A well educated, well read individual, and one who had no problem discussing fashion and makeup with me, hardly the manliest of conversations.

The line was drawn at periods.

The attitude towards periods he had experienced growing up was one where they were treated as a curse, a sign of uncleanliness, a burden women had to endure as discreetly as possible without tainting any innocent men with it. In the later years we managed to educate my father away from the fears borne from menstrual ignorance; he no longer handles a box of tampons at arms length, nor washes his hands compulsively afterwards.

My mum remains quite sheltered on the topic, like many Indian women of her generation. It was something whispered behind closed doors. Uttering it too loudly may cause your uterus to explode. She was taught that it was something to be ashamed of, something women suffered.

Maybe it was a good thing that she wasn’t around to give me the talk. I had to rely on my sister and PSHE for my information. My dad’s only recognition of the event was adding sanitary towels to the shopping list and then promptly reminding me I had to help him buy them, else he be considered a pervert by the rest of London. By the time she came home, my dad was now privy to my cycle, and I was using tampons.

Revelations that garnered an “Oh lord, the shame!” and an afternoon of praying.

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“They attract bears”

The ignorance surrounding the menstrual cycle used to really anger me as a young woman. Periods make women ‘unclean’ in my culture. You are not meant to enter a holy place when menstruating, nor are you meant to touch a man about to pray, or give offerings to god, and a whole other list of things you can’t do because you are tainted by your own biology. The most embarrassing part when I was a young teen, was you would be asked whether you had your period. I could understand this from a doctor, but not when all I wanted to do was step into a building. My mother would discreetly inquire if I had my period and if I did I didn’t have to go to temple, or religious events, or partake in religious ceremonies.

Needless to say, I was always on my period during such occasions.

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Yeah, he’s not convinced

For some of the men I dated ‘that time of the month’ was a punchline and an inconvenience. Periods meant sex was now a hassle. Ignorant fears of fathering a brain damaged baby, or seeing tampax in the bathroom were too much for a minority. In fairness these comments were made by the Bricks of this world who believe periods opened them up to bear attacks.

Most men my age aren’t that ignorant.

But that isn’t to say they are well informed, or that they want to be. An ex once asked me how I was able to be in the swimming pool of our local gym if I was on my period. Confused, I replied tampons. He continued to look at me awaiting an explanation. Why would he know the difference between a sanitary towel or a tampon? Why would he care? The Bodyform woman’s roar was obviously a signal to put the kettle on for him. What he could do though was wipe the terrified look off his face and stop scanning the water for Sharks.

A uniquely female experience doesn’t have be seen as a curse, or unclean, or a negative.

 Man up. It’s just a little blood.

 

Biological Duty

Having a womb isn’t a good enough reason to have kids

I once dated a guy who informed me it was my biological duty to have children.

Yes. He said that.

Think of my uterus, if you would, as a bread maker that came with my ‘kitchen’.

The kitchen is great, but wouldn’t it be more of a kitchen if there was a rising heap of dough in that breadmaker? Wouldn’t that bread make me happier in the long run?

I mean you can’t have a breadmaker and not use it.

How am I still meeting people in this century who have this take on females and procreation?

I was never someone whose womb wrenched when she held a child, nor have I longed to feel life grow inside me. I’ve always been happy to hand a baby back, and get a burrito.

I’ve had the occasional flash panic, and stood in front of the freezer section in Sainsbury’s, frantically texting friends about embryo storage, whilst cooling my ovaries. But it was no bigger a panic than the undercut/no undercut dilemma of 2014.

I love the little humans.

Not because I have a uterus, but because I find them amazing. The incessant questioning, stubbornness, creativity and boundless energy is something I’m on board with.

We get on well.

As a result, I’m often told to have some of my own. Funny, because I’m also told I’m great with pets, but that ‘A puppy is for life, not just for Christmas’ campaign really did a job on folks. That’s something I should consider carefully.

I’m at that age where all my friends have had, or are having children. Some as I type. I am often told there is nothing like the joy of motherhood. That it’s the best thing I’ll ever do.

I think a more realistic description is that motherhood is a completely different kind of experience from those I have had to date. No one is making it look like ‘the best thing’ when they are wrestling a pound of ‘pick n mix’ out of a screaming child’s hand, handling a flooded bathroom, or being bitten.

My trip to Vegas measures up better.

That being said, the love my friends have for their children is contagious. Their relationships are rewarding. The way their children love them is moving. Good people are being raised in the world and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

But from a distance.

For me.

For now.

 

My So Called Life

Life, or something a lot like it

Last month on My Life: I got a job. I started a course. I downloaded Tinder. Again. I quit the job. I finished the course. I deleted Tinder. Again.

Despite the boring summary, I feel like things have changed. Albeit microscopically.

Instead of putting the same effort into a CV as I did into making pencil cases out of Pocky boxes, I chose to play narcissistic date roulette again and hone my use of the ‘How you doin?’ GIF.

Normally, this would distract me for at least a month before I got fed up of the superficiality of it all, and returned to binge drinking for entertainment.

Not this time: It lasted 16 days. And I’m not drunk right now.

It’s not because the internet is rife with sexual deviants who have decided to use their opposable thumbs to tug themselves off and video it simultaneously. Nor is it because it has become acceptable to ask a stranger for a blowjob based on the fact they liked your picture. Although, let’s face it, neither of those guys are doing men a favour in the dating stakes.

The reason is that for months my entire life has been conducted through screens.

I say it like it isn’t the norm. Update status, Snapchat your day, IG your food, Whatsapp your genitals. It’s modern life for many.

Much more of my time has been invested in a virtual reality. I work remotely and rarely have to speak to colleagues beyond emails and online chat. I date remotely and have ‘conversations’ via text. I don’t have to spend any ‘real time’ with people at all.

I miss real people.

I think a lot of pressure was taken off my awkward social skills in the advent of growing social media. I didn’t realise how distant it had made me. I’ve favoured Whatsapp chats over phone calls. My phone is always on silent. I express myself through sarcastic updates  and my last two relationships have been mainly conducted remotely over Skype.

This year has changed me though.

In the spirit of personal development, I told a guy I was texting that we should have a chat, get to know each other properly.

His response was to text me diary entries of his day until I asked him to kindly stop.

Maybe switching my phone off and going outside more is a better start.

Rebel Rebel

I clearly do not like being told what to do

A paramilitary tried to train me for a cross country run once. I thought running with someone else would be fun.

Wrong.

The clue was in the fact he was paramilitary. As a result, he thought barking at me to run faster, run backwards, slow down, go faster, would motivate me. I stopped about 2k in and said I wasn’t going to do anymore. He did the whole, “Don’t quit on me now!” soldier bollocks that might get a different person hyped up and grunting like a frat boy.

I just stopped turned around and started running in the opposite direction.

“I know you’re type.” he said when he caught up to me. “Don’t like being told what to do.”

He was right. I don’t like being told what to do. I don’t like being yelled at. I definitely don’t like the combo with the added stress of an increased heart rate when I am covered in sweat.

Before I could wheeze something offensive at him he pulled out some ninja death stars and a butterfly knife, and said we could go and practice being ninjas in the park instead.

Funnily enough I didn’t mind being told how to throw a knife.

My dad says I always have to be difficult. Do things the hard way. Or the weird way.

Maybe he’s right.

It’s unfortunate we seem to be so diametrically opposed in our approaches to life.

I never considered the tattoos, piercings, short hair, red hair, late nights, drunk nights, or any of the rest of it an act of rebellion. I was just doing what I wanted to do. It just so happened there was someone on the opposite side telling me not to do it.

Is that what makes it rebellion?

Discussing the topic with a friend she told me of her own rebellion: joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It was a bizarre situation.

Her parents thought she needed spiritual guidance. Unfortunately it’s rare to get a Hindu priest knocking on your door.

Cue the change of religion.

I’m still not clear what they hoped to achieve by having the nice Watchtower ladies talk to her once a week. Maybe they thought they would calm her down enough for Hindu control. I bet they didn’t expect her to join the Jehovah’s Witnesses though.

It took two years before she felt her point had been solidly proven and returned to being a happy agnostic.

Was this a completely necessary point to prove?

Probably not.

But when you’re a teen there’s the need to assert who you are. Followed by the notion you will slow down, calm down, or grow out of it.

Now that I’m older, I feel somewhat obliged to behave in a sensible moderate way. But the need to assert who we are isn’t something confined to our hormonal teens.

There’s no one really telling me what to do anymore. Only my brain.

What do

Well brain, I do what I want.

 

 

 

The Line

“Do you know Colonel Gadaffi ma’am?”

I was sure this wasn’t a general question. It wasn’t your typical segue to an insult though. I was mildly impressed the kid knew the name. From what I’d seen in class, he didn’t know much.

It took a bit of willpower not to come back at him with an “I don’t know him, but I hear your mum does…” style comment. I hate low level disruption.

Being a teacher invariably means taking the high road, being reasoned, patient and understanding. Basically, keeping your comebacks and insults to the English office, or pub on Fridays.

Kids will say anything, do anything, push boundaries, take liberties. You teach them what’s acceptable. In my case, you also have to fight the inner child in you that wants verbally decimate them.

You learn to be a patient and controlled person.

The school I am covering for is quite small. An intimate setting compared to the sprawling, two site, jungle of hormones of previous inner city schools I’d worked at. It’s been a tame experience in comparison.

No shits in corridors.

No chairs being thrown.

I had been in two minds over returning to a classroom. Would it be one of those short term stop gaps that evolved into long term giving up on writing?

Would I be able to cope with the indiscriminate arseholery of teenagers? I hadn’t fared that well with adults…

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If you can’t beat them and don’t really care, join them approach. Bad Education

 

School was my social experiment, where I got to test drive the happier, more self assured version of myself. A version that stopped taking shitty behaviour so personally, left people to be responsible for their actions, and was honest about where my line was drawn. It would be the ultimate test.

When a student coughed Curry at an Indian TA the other day, I calmly handed out a detention.

The following class, Gandhi, Dhal, and other innocuous words were woven into responses to questions on Sherlock Holmes, in a show of camaraderie .

It was a banal attack of racially motivated tourettes.

It may seem funny in retrospect. Could even be brushed off. I mean what were they doing wrong? Being silly? Saying random famous figures and names of food? How was that harmful?

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The Snape approach to teaching was still met with subversion.

I’ve been told that as an intelligent adult I have to make concessions for idiotic behaviour, ignorance and those who weren’t raised better.  I was expected to take the high road. To be the better, more understanding person.

I remember discussing my ‘take the high road approach to life’ with an AirBnB roomie.

Why? Was his response.

“Why do you always have to be the adult one when someone else is acting like a complete child?  That guy’s allowed to be a dick right? He’s never called on his bullshit behaviour. But you are because you’re the smarter person. Fuck that.” And with that he disappeared into his room.

It was true. Not everyone is called on their bullshit. If you’re smart you make concessions and cut poisonous people out of your life. When you can’t cut someone out, you have to make a stand.

THE-LINE-MUSTAfter the third random mention of Gandhi  I decided to shine bright like a diamond, and rage on four boys in my class. Anyone ever seen me angry knows this wasn’t pleasant.

The arsehole who maliciously started it, blamed someone else for his behaviour and stormed off bitching with his mate, who had wisely chosen to stay out of it.

The students with a sense of right and wrong tried to apologise for offending me.

The rest watched and learned.

Then a kid who looks about 30 years old decided to hit another student in the face with a balled up pair of PE socks.

I handled it.

I think the experiment is over. Bring me the grown ups.

 

Imperfections

The new year is a big deal for some reason. Successfully orbiting our sun matters to us.  I can’t say I know how difficult, or dangerous it was, but I’m sure it warranted a drink.

Manchester is currently the shining example of how ham we go on a NYE celebration. I have little recollection of my own NYE, but from the accounts of complete strangers who I ran into at the Guinness factory, I was absolutely destroyed.

For those of you that didn’t go full pagan, here’s what you missed out on:

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My own mayhem was not quite the renaissance masterpiece above, but I did my best to try and drown the old year in alcohol.

Maybe it’s the promise of a clean slate with our hangover that pushes some of us over the edge. The need to obliterate the memory cells of whatever it was that made the last year so horrendous. The joy at being surrounded by the people you love the most.

We go out how we have to: Civilised drinks with family and friends, or pinned to the ground by feds.

Either way, we all deserve a fresh start.

With that fresh start come expectations. I mean it has to go better than the last. There has to be progress. I have to be better than I was.

I think I stopped making resolutions in 2003. There were only so many times I could tell myself I was going to be a teetotaling, non-smoking, gym fanatic who read 40 books a year.

I do alright as I am.

I will still get wasted on occasion. I will still have a drunken fag. I will read, but never as much as I could. I will work out, only as much as I need to in order to be able to eat two whole Nando’s chickens on my own.

Obviously there will be change. But it will come at its own pace.

My New Year is all about acceptance.

My resolutions were always about being a better person. Kinder, more tolerant, more forgiving. Or it was about how I could improve my life to fulfil some imaginary standard others would appreciate.

Showing the same kindness, tolerance and understanding for myself never occurred to me.

Moving past my short comings, be it  getting so drunk I fall off a pier, or ignoring my intuition, is something I find hard. My failings are the sun which I have been stuck in orbit around for years.

Rather than trying to evolve into someone perfect, this year will be the year I embrace my dumb ass self for who I am. An alcohol imbibing, wise cracking loud mouth, with an occasionally impressive rack, and a life that often looks a bit like a Manchester high street on New Year’s morning.

Here’s to happiness  and shenanigans in the New Year.