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 would decide 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 razor 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 considerate?

It’s a catch 22 situation.

They seem nice, like all 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 flatshare in Barcelona- or the well intentioned, albeit stingy, clown who would practice his schtick on me.

And sometimes you are woken up by a woman who has decided to dress exactly like you, in your clothes, and even squeeze her size 5 feet into your size 3 Nikes.

It’s 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.

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

Pray for me.

 

Asian in Asia

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The choice is yours

The other day I was watching Master of None when Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar came up. It has been years since I read the book. It sticks in my mind because I started it on comedy improv night. Unsurprisingly, all the suggestions I yelled out were pretty bleak as a result. They had to work for the laughs.

The fig tree has been playing on my mind a lot. Esther’s life is compared to a fig tree, and each fig is a choice she could make. She envisions herself sitting below it, unable to make a choice and watching each fig drop. Black and dead. No longer an option. Hardly the stuff of which improv is made of. A good metaphor nevertheless.

I was 21 or 22 when I first read the Bell Jar. My attitude to life was to just let it carry me where it may. I made my choices on a whim. I would take a bite of the closest fig. There was no painstaking decision. My life was a series of happy coincidences. Until things started to go wrong.

As I got older and the decisions carried more consequences, and it just became increasingly harder. Poor decisions can age you. I repeatedly made the same poor decision with an abusive ex. When I finally made the right choice I felt a hundred years older, and had no faith in my own choices.

From then on my go to move for any choice which carried a real consequence was to survey all my friends, until someone offered up an option that seemed manageable. I then decided to defer all my future life choices to that person, hoping they would just live my life for me because I was so terrible at it.

This was not a plan.

My  decision making is non-existent in relationships. The people pleaser in me comes out then all of a sudden every decision I make revolves around making someone else happy. I’m always looking after someone else’s tree, or eating the fruit they hand to me. When you are offering that much power over your life to the wrong person it has disastrous results.

Over the years, I have met so many people that would happily micromanage my life for me, and a few that returned the decision to me. Thank you to the latter for withholding judgement, and forcing me to adult. I feel like I am doing it more now than ever.

After my last break up I was bothered that no one had warned me about the immaturity and drama that came with him, as if I could have been better informed in my decision making. Transparency wouldn’t have changed anything. I would have given him the same chance. It had been my choice to make.

It had made me laugh when he informed me that I had no right break up with him without consulting him. He didn’t seem to grasp that I was allowed to make my own decisions. Maybe because I had spent a year letting him sway all my mine.

I still hadn’t understood there was so much power in a choice.

I empathise with Esther’s anxiety about making the wrong choice. I have to remind myself it’s equally bad to randomly choose anything, or to make do with the options people give you. It’s such a fine balance. So dependent on luck.

At 35 trying to get into a writing position is hard. I get told I am brave a lot, which makes me feel like I have some kind of terminal illness. Stupidity perhaps. I am sometimes overwhelmed with panic and shake that tree hard, scrambling to see what options I have managed to shake down. But that isn’t the way I want to live life, and I calm down soon enough.

My choices are simpler these days. I am learning to have more faith in myself.

I have to just trust my tree still has a few good figs left.

Image from Zen Pencils.com Check the site for the full illustrated extract from The Bell Jar.

 

 

 

Rewiring my Radar

“He fucked her.”

The one thing you have to love about London is that if you dare to converse openly in the street every Tom, Dick and Harry will give you their two pence worth. As Galia and I made our way to Rebel Bingo, I started rehashing the whole did he/didn’t he of my ex’s supposed infidelity, and secret friendship with a girl whom I’d never heard of until last Christmas.

This was random man’s opinion on the debate:

“Who describes his bedroom to a girl via a text message? Take a picture, yeah, send it to her, but who describes it?”

He made a very good point.

“It’s easy love, the simplest answer is most probable.”

Was it more probable a psychopath became obsessed with my ex after staring at him too long?  Did she then lie to her husband (yes husband) about an affair? Did they then conspire to ruin an innocent man’s life?

Or was it more likely he just shagged her, got caught and now regretted it?

“Simplest answer love.”

Camden’s answer to Confucius turned to a cash machine and started to get money out, leaving me and Galia nodding our heads. Why we were nodding I don’t know. I’d never know which story was true.

Why do I keep bothering with dating when my instinct on men is so off?

I once had dinner at a Mexican friend’s house and was discussing yet another failed relationship when her Nana came in. She joined in the conversation with the promise of bestowing her years of experience and wisdom. At the end of my tale of unreturned texts, a terminally ill relative that never died, and crucial gym commitments, I looked to her for her wisdom.  She delicately placed a hand on my shoulder, looked at me consolingly, and said “Mija, pero tienes radar de pendejos.”

When I turned to my friend to ask what she had said, she replied “Nana says you have asshole radar.”

Thanks, Nana.

My life reads a lot like a Jane Austen novel (with a Mills & Boon cover) that had a massive chunk of the middle pages ripped out. Bits of Bridget Jones, Stephen King and Sylvia Plath have been glued in and interspliced with the occasional nudie pic.

It reads like a serial killer’s scrap book.

There have been many lovely men in my life, and others available. As a good friend of mine will remind me, “You never go for the ones I try to set you up with, you always like their fit/dodgy mate!”

I have been on a one woman mission to perfect the art of reverse man alchemy, where I take a guy that looks golden and turn him into a shit. Complete success has been achieved on more than one occasion. That doesn’t bug me as much as the fact my life has become one big dating anecdote.

The things that I have done, places I have seen and people I have met are the backstory to a failed love life. This realisation has lead me to my new plan: rewiring my radar.

As dumb as I may already sound, I am not so stupid that I am going to sit crying into a tub of ice cream about how unlucky I am. Well, not anymore. I don’t really believe in luck, or karma. Up until now I used to think that I believed in myself, but it was clear to see after months of flailing around struggling to come to terms with a whole new life in London, and a lot of disappointment, I didn’t believe I could make any of it work alone. Me. Who moved to a Mexico alone at 24 with no friends and 100 pairs of knickers because a) why not? and  b) you always need clean underwear.

Those of you that know me, know me as a fearless, loveable idiot who won’t shut up. Those that have known me longer know  might think I’m quite tough and cynical. No one knows you better than yourself though, and after the last dating anecdote I’ve decided to take time off life as I’ve known it.

I have a pathetic amount of money saved and will be funding the ‘having-a-life-and- being-happy-project.’ During this time, I will be going out and about in London. Travelling to a city near you, perhaps. Writing about what I see along the way, the people I meet, and setting my radar to ‘no pendejos’.

If you need a partner in crime, call me. If you want to go somewhere you haven’t been to before, I’m your girl.

It’s been two weeks now, and it’s absolutely terrifying. I have only just stopped waking up with the kind of pain in my chest that makes me have to pat myself down to see if I slept with my bra on.

Still totally worth it.

Wish me luck.