Friday, 24 August 2012

Lessons in Love

I have been single for over a year now and when I look back, it’s been nearly eight years since I entered into my first exclusive relationship. Since then, I’ve dated a variety of men – different shapes, sizes and backgrounds - and I've had many ups and downs. But I take each experience as a learning curb because each relationship or romance has taught me something which I feel will better prepare me when I’m ready to enter into something a little more long-term.


~
INJECT SPONTANEITY

I was sixteen going on seventeen when I entered into my first relationship. I look back and realise that it was probably one of the best that I had been in and I still say to this day that had both of us been older when we’d met, I probably would have married him. Nevertheless, we were kids. We lived at home (note: I still live at home) and we were broke. This seriously limited the kinds of things we could do so most of our time was spent at each others’ houses or going to see a movie. The ending was mutual. We were young. It wasn’t going to be forever. And while I can’t speak for him, I strongly desired a little ‘excitement’ because our relationship was fun, but very routine. I, therefore, think that a little spontaneity is necessary every once in a while.

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO

My second excursion with the opposite sex wasn’t a relationship, but showed me just how na├»ve I was. The guy I got myself involved with described himself as ‘damaged goods’ which really was the first red flag. I would also, ask him ‘What is this?” and he could never answer. Enter the second. But I went along with it any way thinking for some stupid reason that I could help to change him. Instead, I came out of it emotionally distraught when he didn’t want to be with me anymore and it led me to realise that you really need to be on the same page. You need to want the same thing in order for whatever it is to work. Because if one person’s looking for a good time and the other is looking for something more serious, somebody’s gonna get burned.

DON’T DATE THE REBOUND GUY!

For all those not in the know, the Rebound Guy or Girl is the person who’s just come out of a long-term relationship and is looking for someone else to compensate for that loss. The likelihood is they may be physically into you, but emotionally, their head and their heart are still with that ex-partner, whether they still love them or not. Ultimately, Rebound Folk shouldn’t be looking to be in a relationship, nor should they be dating. They should be spending time with themselves in order to heal and to grieve properly for the lost relationship and/or partner. Needless to say, my relationship with the Rebound Guy didn’t last very long as I realised that once again, we were not on the same page.

INTERFAITH RELATIONSHIPS DO NOT WORK

So before you double-take, triple-blink and what have you, I have heard of many instances where it has worked and more power to them, but after dating a devout Muslim, I have made the decision that I will never date another Muslim again. Now I’m a huge advocate of interracial and intercultural relationships (note: this doesn’t mean I hate black men) so when I got involved with him, I made it a priority to understand his faith better as it was clearly important to him. I did some research online and would feed him back my questions, but ultimately, whenever we would discuss an aspect of his faith, it would nearly always lapse into an argument. Perhaps it wasn’t just an interfaith thing, nonetheless but also, too large a cultural disparity because while his family were quite male-centric, mine are more female-specific. Ultimately, it was his faith and his ideologies – some of which I didn’t agree with – which drew it to an end eventually, and I look back on it now and realise that it was probably a bad idea to get involved with him in the first place.

LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIPS ARE A GAMBLE

And rightfully so. I met the Long-Distance Guy in my home country initially but then he went back home. We had gotten quite attached to each other and I even flew out there to see him. But when I came back, things were just really difficult, emotionally draining and in the end, we called it quits. The irony is that both of us had done this before – albeit under different circumstances – and had seen it crash and burn, so to try it again was pretty foolish. I feel that they generally do not work, but I know of some cases where it has worked, which is why I feel that in order for them to go the long haul, both partners will a) need to have know each other for a great deal of time before the distance occurs and b) ensure the distance isn’t permanent (or as good as). Either Long Distance Guy or Girl will be coming back some day soon or you intend to join them at some point down the line. What I am most certain of, however, is that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to endure a long-distance relationship again.

~

The pattern in all these relationships, if you will, is that they were all short term; none saw a year. And while I know that it may be a product of living in the west where the values are a lot more relaxed, it may have also, been because of my limited knowledge of what constitutes a relationship and not knowing precisely what would work for me and how much I could tolerate. I’ve actually repeated some of the mistakes I’ve made so I guess lessons aren’t always learnt, but as I am now, if I was searching for a relationship, I think I’d be able to look at this as an evaluation of where I, myself, might have gone wrong.

I foresee myself being single for a lot longer, however, as I intend to travel abroad and as you know, long-distance relationships just don’t seem to cut it for me. For anyone who may have found themselves unlucky in love, however, I’d say take the opportunity to search for patterns in your relationship history. They may be more obvious than you realise and as with me, certain things may not be working for you. Take every relationship – romantic or otherwise – as a lesson. Life is full of them.



Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Inside The Belly of the Beast

Yesterday, I watched this show*: 


In recent years, there’s been an influx of weight-loss and healthy eating programs in order to combat the fact that the United Kingdom has been statistically proven as the fattest nation in Europe. What’s more is that it’s been predicted by scientists that if we don’t sort ourselves out now, half the nation will be overweight and the number of elderly people with cancer with treble by 2040. Frightening stuff.

As a person who has a bit of a fear of dying – and dying painfully – I try to take care of myself. I love the gym and when I walk home having done a tasty piece of hard graft, I get a nice little buzz.  Nevertheless, I’m not perfect. I have my relapses. Takeaways on payday have become common recently and I like me the odd cake or sweet drink once in a while. I don’t eat nearly as much fruit as I should and even though my weekly exercise routine consists of three 90 minute workouts at the gym and an hour getting’ down at zumba, over the past few months, this has began to decline. When I’m ill, the decline is steeper, but I’m fortunate because while not as disciplined with myself as I know I can be, I’m aware of my shortfalls and find ways to compensate for them.

Back in 2003, however, when I was my heaviest – a girl of fifteen; hardly a size 14 and yet not quite a 16 – I hadn’t a clue. My mum had just started fixing her own eating habits and yet I was piling on the pounds; I even weighed more than her at one point.

During my primary school days, I was the skinny kid who could pack it away. I remember lunchtime. Juniors were split into 'First and Second Dinners' on a rotary basis. When you were in for Second Dinners, there was a chance you could get seconds or even thirds. And then there was Christmas dinner - big stuff in my family - because not only did we have turkey, but we had beef, pork, chicken, fish, stuffing, Yorkshire pudding, mountains of gravy…etc. And I would put all of it and extras away with absolutely no problem whatsoever. I was a kid who enjoyed feeling stuffed beyond logic - bursting even; the kind of ‘stuffed’ where you have to lay down afterward because the concept of sitting up was too uncomfortable and ‘walking it off’ was about as far a thought away as my gut was.

So what I’m thinking is that I had taken my childhood eating habits into an adolescent body thinking it would be okay. But of course, it wasn’t. Because there was one thing that had changed between primary school and secondary school and that was the amount of exercise I was getting.

In primary school, I’d run around the playground, mess about on the climbing frame, the monkey bars…etc. In secondary school there was no apparatus. In my first year, however, I remember running around the school grounds playing a game of “it” and being yelled at by an older girl for doing exactly what I should have been doing – running around and exercising. But as I got older, 'exercising' was substituted for queuing up for the tuck shop, sitting on the wall and having a chat or messing about on the computers in the library after school.

By Year 9, I began to mature and the weight was piling on. My face had a mass of spots on it and I began to hate the way I looked. By Year 10, I would whinge to my mum who would tell me what I needed to do to shift the weight – and yet it seemed to go in one ear and out the other. I didn’t understand why I had to change my eating habits; they’d always worked for me.

So I tried dieting. The first diet I tried was the Slim Fast diet. This lasted about a week. Substituting two meals for a can of liquid just didn’t cut it for me. I felt hungrier than usual and miserable. The next diet I tried was the Atkin’s Diet. My mum and even my aunt (who really had nothing to shift really; she’s always been thin) tried this diet and I have got to say that it worked. I was going strong for two weeks, cutting the carbs, scarfing the meat and dropping pounds, until my aunt became physically sick. Mum had read somewhere that apparently the Atkin’s diet can affect your kidneys so, not wanting to suffer as my aunt had, I stopped that diet and the weight went back on as expected.

Ultimately, the turnaround for me was a program called Paul McKenna Will Make You Thin. For me, it was one of the first programs I’d watched about legitimate weight-loss and it basically taught me to stop snacking on rubbish – I was addicted to chocolate for many years - to reduce portion size – seconds and thirds gone – and to drink water because not only does it contain no calories whatsoever, but it also, has a way of telling you whether you’re genuinely hungry or whether that pang in your stomach just means you were thirsty all along.

So I started off small and cut out chocolate for three weeks setting my reward date as Easter Sunday. Easter came and in tradition, mum had bought me an Egg. Even though I ate it, nonetheless, I realised that I really didn’t have to. I no longer craved chocolate in the same way as I once had while at secondary school. And even now at twenty-four, I don’t buy chocolate bars anymore and may only have chocolate in the form of a slice of cake at a restaurant or in the form of a biscuit.

In my freshman year of university, after having paid £150 for a year long membership to the gym - and having not gone for half a year - I slapped myself something fierce and proceeded to put Paul McKenna into action - properly. University is freedom when you're a student. I had a loan and a grant and bulk shopped every month. I would spend between £60 - £80 on groceries and £20 alone went towards sugar-infested drinks – Coke Cola, Ribena (the one you dilute with water), Lemonade, Cranberry juice** etc. I substituted the whole lot for four large bottles of water which collectively cost me £3. The snacks and biscuits and takeaways all went and I controlled my eating to three meals a day only. I went to the gym three times a week*** and five months later, I’d dropped a dress size. I hadn’t been a size 12 in forever.

So when I tuned into Secret Eaters last night, I couldn’t help but think about my old eating habits. The show looks into the lives of families who haven’t a clue why they may be overweight or aren’t losing weight. Sometimes a family isn't aware of what they’re doing while others just mightn’t be able to admit it to themselves that they do overeat. These people are given names for example, the Mealtime Magpie, described as the type of person who doesn’t like to see food go to waste and will therefore finish everything up; or the One Meal Wonder, who is the type of eater that tends to eat one meal a day, but due to hunger may overeat in that one sitting and over-compensate for the food not eaten during the day.

I was the Comfort Eater. I ate food that was hanging around out of boredom mostly or stress and especially tucked into snacks on a Friday after school, spending most of the night at the computer. I recall I had a set up; some manner of fizzy drink or something high in sugar - usually a bottle - and two or three packets of chocolates - Minstrels were my favourite. Note: I would eat and drink this on top of my dinner.

Nowadays, I’m a bit more savvy and a bit more opinionated when it comes to weight loss and weight gain. I know how big of an influence the media can be, whether positive or detrimental. But even now as a size 14 again, I want to be slimmer. At the same time, however, I don’t desire to be stick thin – I want to settle back at that size 12 simply because a) I’ve been a size 12 before and b) I don’t want to lose my curves – definitely culturally specific. I have a strong dislike of fad diets and diet pills, and actually had every intention of ranting about them here, but found this instead, which sums up my feelings perfectly.

My eating habits and such are far from ideal, nonetheless. I have yet to master the balanced lifestyle that I would like and I prefer to cut out temptation by NOT having certain things in the fridge or carrying less money. Eight years ago, I would have turned my nose up at this notion, but all one really needs is to eat well, beast less and exercise regularly.


Channel4 ©
**Sometimes I’d mix them. Colabena anyone?
***I once did a seven-day streak, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Bashing The Word

I would describe myself as a relatively open-minded person. Relatively, because there are just some things that I won’t compromise on, but such is life. I can talk or be talked to about a range of topics and even if they don’t interest me, I might try to understand it or make like I’m trying to understand it. If it’s important to someone I care about or maybe even someone I’ve just met, then 9 times out of 10, I’ll engage it. There is just one topic however, that I find very uncomfortable:

Religion.

I believe it was the movie Big Fish where this quote surfaced:

“It’s rude to talk about religion. You never know who you’re going to offend.”

Religion is a very common topic here, nevertheless, and ranges from people preaching in the streets to those who attempt to spread the word by knocking on your front door.

I believe some sort of law was implemented in which Jehova’s Witnesses were prohibited from knocking on doors, but you still get the odd one of two. The law can’t be everywhere unfortunately, but I’m grateful that the numbers have drastically decreased.

Don’t get me wrong. I was raised on Christian beliefs. I celebrate Christmas, sometimes Lent and the like. I understand that the bible dictates that Christians should ‘spread the word’. But I’ve found over the years that a handful of the Christians that I’ve encountered have a rather passive-aggressive way of spreading this word and it’s something that I do not like.

I would describe myself as Agnostic. There might be a God; there might not be, but personally, I feel that it shouldn’t be anyone else’s decision to look into faith and religion, but my own.

A customer I dealt with today asked me if I went to church. I said no. Outside of a christening, a wedding or a funeral, I don’t go to church. So she felt the need to drop me a magazine, which I know I will not read. On another occasion, a Muslim woman asked me if I was Christian. I said no. She then began to encourage me to pick up a Qu’ran. I explained my standpoint to her, but she just wasn’t having it and I tend to find that whenever I try to explain myself, they just won’t have it. These people just don’t seem to respect my difference of opinion, and while I don’t hold it against anyone for having a contrasting opinion to my own, I really think that some people of faith – passionate about said faith as they may be – should take a step back and focus on the people that are genuinely interested, genuinely ready or actually desire to gain a faith or convert.

Maybe they hear ‘agnostic’ and think that I’m lost, but I’m not lost dammit! I’m just not ready to go on that journey yet.

One of my closest friends is a devout Christian and she respects this about me just as I respect that her faith is a big part of her. And I know it’s not every person of faith, but why is it so difficult for certain others to grasp?

I tend to find that this happens moreso with Christianity. I’ve never seen a Jew go around Torah bashing, or Sikhs going around Guru Granth Sahib bashing. But it leads me to wonder if they might preach if they were in greater numbers here; the UK is obviously a Christian country. Even Buddhism seems a bit more laid back, but again, the number of Buddhists in the UK is very small.

I wonder if it might be too much to ask people of faith to step outside themselves for a bit. Continue to maintain your faith. It’s important to you and I respect that, but try to understand why others may choose not to have one or may not be sure if there’s any point in having one.

Some people may feel that the purpose of our existence is to procreate and yet another friend of mine refuses to have children because of the horrors that exist in the world. Her decision. Not gonna hold it against her.

Ultimately, however, I think that it’s all down to respect. Respect the believer, the unsure and the non-believer because we’re all people; we’re all human together. If one can’t exercise that, however, I guess another compromise would be to agree to disagree and leave it at that.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Don't Play With Yourself

Today I was hit by a car.

No, I’m not joking and no, I’m not in hospital. I could have caused quite the sensation and it all happened about five minutes from my front door.

Today is potentially the hottest day of the year, but there are times when I can be rather anti-social. So instead of hooking up with some friends to enjoy the weather, I decided to stay indoors and take part in a little ‘lazy time’. Unfortunately, adopting this mentality usually spawns cravings which often stand against the gym bunny in me so after rifling through my cupboards for something to snack on (note: we never buy snacks in the monthly shop), I decided to put on some clothes and step out of my house.

All was good. I made the descent down the hill onto a semi main road and stopped at the traffic lights. However, I can be a bit impatient at times and know for a fact that if I was American, I’d probably get done for jaywalking. At the time, however, all I could think about was buying my stuff, getting home and eating it so I chose an opportunity – an ill opportunity. 

The left side of the road was clear save for one car coming that was due to turn into the next road. There were two buses waiting to turn at the crossing I was waiting at. I figured that I could squeeze between them before they turned and get to the other side of the road. However, the bus in front began to turn and the bus behind edged forward towards where I had made my move – stupidly, I might add.

The driver beeped at me and I don’t know what it is, but beeping usually makes me panic and want to get as quickly out of the road as possible, only I forgot to consider the second lane beside the buses which was empty until the moment I stepped into it and a silver car came rushing towards me.

Please note that I know these roads. I’ve lived around them for nearly 18 years now so there really is no excuse. The car came rushing towards me nonetheless, the driver slammed on the breaks and I slammed by hands onto the bonnet, but the force still sent me backwards and into the street. The woman in the car screamed and all I kept thinking was:

IDIOT!!

How could you be so stupid?

Why didn’t you just wait on the pavement like a normal person?

I was shaken up but I knew instantly that I was in the wrong. I apologised profusely to the driver before making my way onto the pavement. A woman kept staring at me almost disapprovingly which made me feel worse, but a lovely man enquired after my well-being – I thought it was so sweet, but I was so very embarrassed. I only had a few grazes and he pointed me into the direction of a chemist – which turned out to be closed - but I thanked him for his concern anyway and then made my way towards the shop, keen to get out of the public eye.

I look back and realise I’ve done something similar to this at another road further up and around the corner from my house, only instead of intentionally attempting to get somewhere, I was just walking casually across the road – not paying attention – and a motor-cycle narrowly missed ramming into me. 

Therefore, I can’t help thinking that this was bound to happen. I’ve always been reprimanded by friends and family for the way I cross the road and even though it had actually gotten better over the years, I guess it’s common to relapse.

My advice to anyone is therefore, to be patient and to do the right thing. My life didn’t flash before my eyes or anything, but I’ve only ever felt that ‘shaken’ sensation once before and that was when I passed out on the train. Life is fleeting. Take care of it.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Me, My Blog & I

I had every intention of making this a generic intro post, however, as I started writing, I started thinking about how I could introduce myself while talking about something worthwhile and then it sort of came to me. Because this has been a topic that I’ve spent half my life fixated on. So I ask you – the public - is there anybody out there that has taken a good hard look at themselves and thought:

“you know what…there isn’t anyone quite like me”

And I don’t mean in the arrogant sense. Because there’s loving yourself and then there’s building a fort for you, yourself and you AND a mirror. And I don’t mean in the individual sense either. Certainly, we like to think that we’re one of a kind. Our parents are always telling us that we’re special – granted, they kind of have to. But I mean really. Have you ever thought that you kind of stood alone, so to speak?

As a child, I went to a multi-cultural primary school – although about 80% of the girls in my class were black. We were all pretty much kids – innocent, unassuming, jovial – until we hit around about the seven-year-old mark and the ‘influences’ - the ugly in the world - truly took hold. Slang entered our vocabulary and everything became a joke. Couldn’t let anyone catch you tripping up because it was funny. Be careful where you sat; never know when a pin might mysteriously appear between your butt cheeks.

Yeah. I look back on it now and realise that kids in my school – heck, kids in general - had a sadistic sense of humour.

Let’s skip forward to secondary school – where your personality pretty much starts to take shape and it’s an uphill battle for acceptance. Once again my school was mostly black, but in contrast, was all girls. I had a bit of a tough time during this period because I didn’t really fit anywhere. But groups were already forming. You had your ‘girlie girls’, your tomboys, your ‘obnoxious black folk'..etc, and I’ll admit, I started off pretty comfortably…until I got moved into the fast track class and my ‘status’ – if you will – changed immediately.

I have a thing about failure. I don’t like to fail at anything. I beat myself up really badly if I don’t deliver so in school, it was important for me to do well. NERD!! status was immediately attached to me because I listened in class, did my work and got fairly decent grades. Some people even admitted to me later on that they thought I was ‘stoosh’ or stuck up. At the same time, however, I pretty much sacrificed a social life.

I didn’t go to the chicken shop –insert eye roll here- after school with the ‘popular’ kids. I hated the concept of sitting at the back of the bus on the upper deck with the boys from the school down the road and around the corner. I didn’t shout or cuss. I wasn’t confrontational. I cried a lot – most of it in secret. I hated being different and didn’t understand why I was the way I was. People only wanted to know me for the answers to questions or called me in regards to homework assignments. They made fun of my hair, called me a ‘bounty’* and would have pretty much destroyed my self-confidence had it not been for the fact that I was an avid writer – they seemed to enjoy reading my work - who enjoyed performance art; I loved acting and played the piano.

And even though come my final year, I finally managed to find people who I could truly consider friend, I was still quite different. I didn’t wear make-up or earrings; didn’t care for fashion – still don’t. Wasn’t up to date with the latest songs and had generally geeky pastimes that I kept to myself.

College was more of the same and by university, I managed to accept myself and have others accept me too, but I still don’t think I’ve met anyone quite like me. I tend to have friends who I associate different parts of my personality with and I don’t think I meant to intentionally, but I find that I keep them separate.

My black friends will always understand that I am a black woman and will understand the isms associated with being black and being female. I once worked for SEGA Europe – enter the geek - where I share all my anime, role-playing and video gaming madness (a good proportion of my geeky friends, however, are online). There were the friends that shared my love for the gym and all things keep-fit. When I worked for a company called Eat Ltd – a culturally diverse company - my work colleagues saw me as English first and wanted to improve their English with me.  

But even though, these people make up parts of my life, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that encompasses it all. And as I’m thinking about it, maybe I’m not supposed to.

Growing up, I always thought it would be cool to have one group of friends who I could share everything with. I’d see these people from school, through puberty and the rest of it, right into adulthood and have that kind of history that makes you feel like family despite the lack of blood ties. I do have friends who I went to school with that I’m still in touch with now, but only one or two who I feel will follow me through life.

And maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe I’m not supposed to share all of me with one person. Maybe these people are supposed to allow me to demonstrate the different parts of myself in a sense that they have greater appreciation for the part they share with me.

Or maybe I have too many interests for my own good.

All I know is, I don’t think there ever will be anyone quite like me, (although now that I think a bout it, an ex-boyfriend came dangerously close). So to all those individuals who do fit in and have generally found people with who they can relate all of themselves to – I’m glad for you. It’s possible that your childhood wasn’t tempestuous at all. But to all those individuals out there that might feel a little bit out of place, I say embrace yourself. You’re like a cake with many layers - or maybe even just one, but I’m sure you taste just as sweet.

*bounty = black on the outside, white on the inside.