Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Art of Flirting - There Are Those That Have It...

And there are those that don't.

And yes, I can admit without shame that I am one of those that does not have it. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I have missed the signals until it was too late. And then when I finally catch on, an awkward tremor of ‘ewww’ will slither up my spine, wondering if my kind and pleasant words were like music to ears with a hint of orange zest coupled with a shot of ‘Yep! I’m in there!’.

Funnily enough, I’ve been told that my default expression often makes me look a bit mean. I can’t help that though; it would be a bit strange to walk around with a permanent smile fixed onto my face. But I am a nice person, you see. I even politely decline the people begging in the street, or those people who hand out newspapers at the station in the morning – when what most people really do is just flat out ignore them.

And for the most part I do. I don’t respond to hissing fits or cat calls because I find them degrading, but at times, there are those who persist – whether you’re alone at the bus stop or standing at the end of a quiet platform waiting for the tube – and there is often no means of escape. With these people, however, it’s usually blatantly obvious what their intentions are, however, because this isn’t fifty-years ago where it was common to exchange words briefly with a stranger. This is the twenty-first century where people can no longer be trusted and charlatans walk around in high numbers.

So I feel that in addition to myself, these people don’t ‘have it’ either. British people – unless drunk – are a suspicious lot after all – and if a complete stranger wonders up beside me and asks me my name and where I’m from, I’m going to wonder if he’s trying to steal my identity.

Usually in this scenario, however, the questions that follow are pretty ‘high school’. Where are you headed? Have you got a boyfriend? Can I get your number? And even when you do decline – or you do like I do and lie through your teeth stating that you’re with someone already – some will even bold-facedly ask if they can still be your friend.

Bloody cheek.

These people are the creeps, however. The people that are so desperate for some coochie that they don’t care where they get it. I’m convinced that these are the kind of people that post up ads on with intentions of having an intimate encounter. Some are probably married.

But it isn’t everyone, however. And it’s not these people I fall victim to. It’s the people who have managed to bypass the level of acquaintance even though they mightn’t yet be my friend. I suppose it’s easier when you have something in common – it should pave the way for a little light-hearted banter – but I tend to find that with these people, it becomes very awkward when you have to let them down gently.

Here’s an example. My boss became very friendly with a man who fixed the boiler a couple of times so he would frequently come to the office. The guy was very talkative and friendly and even showed me a few tips and tricks that would save us if our boiler acted up again. I didn’t mind him. He seemed harmless, until one day when I was at work alone and he came in.

I had thought he’d wanted to see my boss about something – not uncommon as she’d had him over at her house to do some work. She wasn’t in, however, so he stopped to have a word with me. He began asking me what I did in my spare time and conversation turned towards my aspirations as I had yet to start my TESOL course at the time. He began talking about taking me out, which I fobbed off as a joke because not only does it seem to be a common joke in my workplace, but the man is old enough to be my father. I only realised he was being serious when he offered to give me his number.


I didn’t want to be rude, but I let him leave his number anyway. What I really should have said was ‘thanks, but no thanks’ – not in so many words, but enough to ensure he got the picture. I think he did get the picture, however, because I can’t seem to hide when I feel uncomfortable. He left shortly after and hasn’t been in contact since.

So I have to wonder to myself if my incessant pleasantries give off the notion of ‘leading on’ – or whether I’m just completely clueless about the inner workings of the male psyche.

Or maybe those who flirt naturally communicate in an entirely different language altogether – one that I haven’t really grasped. Because to me, the general consensus seems to be that a person is creepy or it’s all one big joke. But is it all down to suspicions or insecurities, or is it because I’m just not looking for it? You can’t catch what you can’t see after all. And in this case, things tend to find me when I least expect them to.

Or maybe for me, intentions need to be laid on the line from the get go - give it to me straight, doc. This is a little ironic, however, because if I genuinely genuinely fancied someone, that person would never know.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Busy Bee Syndrome ~ The Take-Off

Well, it’s all kicking off now. And for the first time in my life, it seems that I’m going to be genuinely doing things. A lot of things. Things that might even go over my head. But this is good because this is what I wanted. I wanted to be active – and not just in the gym either. I wanted to help my case so that when I start looking for work overseas in the new year, I’ll have a backlog of experience to put on my CV. I mean, I’m so used to my three day week and lounging around on Monday and Tuesday virtually doing nothing. So this should be good for me.

You see, it was always my intention when I booked my TESOL course that I would apply to the JET Programme again, but I’m actually starting to think that I might even stand a chance this year.

For those of you who don’t know, JET stands for Japanese Exchange and Teaching, which is basically a government programme which recruits graduates from English speaking countries to go and teach English to students in Japan. This programme is the finished article – if there was ever a safer and sure-fire way of working as a Assistant Language Teacher in Japan, JET is it. But as with everything government-related, it is highly HIGHLY competitive.

I was going to apply anyway, but in my mind I figured that I probably wouldn’t make it to the interviews (like the last time I applied back in 2009), but with things starting to move forward in my life, I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, I might have a shot.

You see, I did the TESOL course, not just for JET, but for myself as well. The concept of teaching English abroad was so interesting when I booked it and now that I’ve completed it, I’m determined to leave the country and actually do it. So first stop. Japan.

But even if I don’t make it onto JET, I’m going to Japan one way or another. I’ve been interested in that place since my cousin got me into anime when I was thirteen and now, over ten years later, it’s become a must.

So what am I doing in order to increase my chances of finding work over there?

  • Well, as you know, I completed my TESOL course. My certificate came the other day – the postman bent the corners of it – the wanker – but it arrived.

  • I’m in the process of legally changing my name. I’ve heard that Asia is very strict when it comes to names and identification. I even read a blog post where some girl had problems retrieving items that had been sent over to her in South Korea simply because of a discrepancy with the name on the package and the name in her passport. Therefore, because all of my certificates - dating back to my school days – indicate my surname with a gap, I’ve legally included a gap in my last name. The deed poll came today and thus, I now need to circulate them to the designated government bodies or what have you starting with acquiring the forms to apply for a new passport.

    Speaking of passports – I dropped mine on the street today and somebody found it. I am the luckiest person ever. I didn’t even know I’d dropped it until my mum phoned and told me that someone had phoned her. So yeah, lesson number one; there are some good people out there, and lesson number two; I’m rubbish.

  • I put up an ad on Gumtree advertising for a Japanese language exchange partner. I had a mountain of feedback, but as I know what Gumtree is like, I figured I’d email  people back and forth for a bit before meeting them in person. There are people out there that are looking for a bit more than just a language exchange. I kid you not when I say I saw an ad in the Skills and Language Swap section advertising for a live-in girlfriend.

    Fortunately for me, I found myself a language exchange partner who isn’t a creep. Seems like a really nice guy. He has a lot to say about things and I feel like I can really talk to him so we’ll see what happens there, but one way or another, I’m learning some Japanese and teaching English at the same time. EPIC!

  • In addition to this, I joined a few tutoring agencies and got a phone call from one of them last night. As I was in the cinema watching Taken 2, I figured I’d call them today and find out what’s up. Good news! It's a boy! He's ten-years-old, he’s lazy and I've been told that I need to be strict. I spoke to the mother this evening and stupidly forgot to list some questions to ask her about her son, but she seemed very desperate for the help and our regular tuition days will be Saturday mornings at 11am.

    Funnily enough, while I was speaking to her, the tutoring agency rang again so I called them back. They wanted to assign me a seventeen-year-old girl, but I declined that one considering that I haven’t even started tutoring yet. It sounds like they’re going to be throwing students at me left, right and centre, however, which is good because it’s an extra income, but I figured there’d be at least a week between new assignments.
    I’ll pick up the next one, however. I’m thinking my maximum will probably be three.


So, in terms of the JET application and working overseas teaching children in general, this looks good. I’m tutoring children, teaching English, learning Japanese and about the Japanese culture and I’m still earning an income. I’m hoping that by the end of this year, I’ll have enough to be able to survive the first month in Japan – the month you have to wait before that first paycheck. So come the new year, post-JET application process, the real job search begins.

So how am I gonna handle all this?

Well, I’m going to have to strongly organise my life. It’ll be like university all over again – only the assignments will be lesson plans and unlike uni, they’ll be due in fast and furious. My part time job as an admin is the part time job I had at university – I was a retail assistant. Fun. The little time I spend with friends and family will be the clubs and student union nights I’d go to every once in a while. I have to fit the gym in there somewhere and my bedtimes will probably have to be earlier as they're 12am if I’m tired, 1am usually and 2am if I’ve got things on my mind.

I think it would also, be helpful if I fixed my diet as well. There’s been a dangerous influx of Chinese takeaways of late. We did the monthly shop last week, however so I have no excuse.

I shall keep you updated, however. Hopefully I don’t burnout.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Family Values - Is Blood Really Thicker?

I’m probably taking a huge gamble writing this considering than any one of my relatives could click on this page and read my thoughts. I don’t expect to get feedback nor empathy either really as I’m pretty sure I’m one of few that feels this way, but I was thinking about this last night and it was further amplified by this blog entry that I read this morning. Because, you see, family is supposed to be important and it is – I don’t dispute this. You can’t choose your family and even if they drive you up the wall, you love them anyway. For example, some of the women in my family have a strong pride about things and must always get the last word in during an argument no matter what. Other members of my family repeat themselves and this irritates me to no end because I have a thing about feeling patronised. But even though I love my family and will always love them unconditionally, over the years, I’ve come to find that I’m not as close to my family as I would like to be.

On my mum’s side in particular, the vast majority of my relatives are women. Women like to talk. This dates back to history when ladies would meet with each other to have a good natter and gossip about their day to day experiences. Unfortunately, I’ve never been one to talk about myself much. I have no problems penning my thoughts; I find more comfort in writing, but speaking about them – especially if their negative – has always been difficult for me. In a sense, I was a very modest child - I believe I grew up with a few self-acceptance issues as well. Even now, I have a divine hatred of arrogance - modesty is the best policy - so it was quite difficult for my family to coax information out of me. In retrospect, I think I might have adopted a ‘guy’ mentality, similar to this:

(see between 30 and 42 seconds)

I talk in facts.

How are you? I’m fine? Do anything this weekend? Went to a club. How was it? Great!

I don’t always elaborate. And while sometimes I know that this isn’t on purpose, sometimes it really is. So maybe it’s not just about mentality, but about feeling comfortable as well. Because I’m sure that we would all agree that there are just some things that you don’t tell your relatives in the same way that you tell your friends and vice versa.

You’ll remember that I mentioned earlier on, that I grew up unable to accept the way I was for quite some time. For more information, you can read my opening entry. I was a very atypical child. In primary school, I played with children younger than myself because all the other girls ever did during playtime was hang around the football pitch, gossip and watch the boys play football -snore-. In secondary school, I used less of my mouth and more of my brain to get by, preferring to improve my intelligence instead of my popularity. By even then, I was secretive. I was almost ashamed that I had typically geeky pastimes. I played video games, I wrote fanfiction, I spent A LOT of time at my computer and I liked watching Japanese cartoons. I kept these sides of myself locked away indoors. The funny thing is, most of my family knew these things about me. I could even share one or two things with the members of my own generation, but at the same time, there are things that are strongly associated with myself – things that are integrated into my personality – that I am unable to share with them. And this is because I’m not at ease enough to do so.

It should be common knowledge that the way your treat your elders is different to the way you treat your cousins, your friends or those who are younger than you. There’s a level of respect that you must exercise to your elders just because their older than you and wiser than you. And I do respect my family, but what I’ve realised now is that I’m not comfortable enough to be myself around them. 

This doesn’t pertain to all members of my family however – just a lot more of them than there should be. Everyone’s got a black sheep in their family. I’m starting to wonder if I’m leaning dangerously close to becoming the black sheep of mine.

Perhaps it happened when I went to university, where the bridge between me and my family increased substantially. As I said, I was the kid that talked in facts.  I started to dislike speaking to people on the phone and even now as an adult, I find talking on the phone to be incredibly awkward. I text people more than I speak to them – potentially, this might be the influence of the writer in me or maybe it’s the fear of the awkward - if I can avoid an uncomfortable situation, I will. In fact, the amount of people I feel comfortable talking to on the phone are enough for me to count on one hand. That’s bad, I know. And because most of my family utilise the phone to communicate – especially as we don’t live particular close to one another, I feel that in me not contacting them the way their used to communicating, they may have potentially interpreted it to be me purposely distancing myself from them. And so they don’t call me. And I don’t call them. And as such, the distance gets greater and greater and the relationship starts to crumble.

Ever bumped into a person you once went to school with as an adult? You haven’t seen them in ages; you had some good times back in the day and now you wouldn’t mind catching up. Only your relationship in school might have been something, but as an adult, you’ve both become different people. You’re interests are different. The way you conduct yourself is different and in being different, whatever relationship you might have had, has no way of resuming.

I’m not sure I changed much during university - I may have become a bit more confident, a bit more responsible, a bit more self aware and a little less tolerant (of certain things) – but excluding that, I’m pretty sure I’m the same person I was…I think. Irrespective, I’m thinking that in having very little contact with my family, that distance between us simply became too great. As a unit, they themselves became closer and I became the person looking in from the outside. And even though I’m taking steps to reduce that gap, it’s difficult because it requires effort when it should be natural. These people are my family after all. They’ve known me all or most of my life, but it doesn’t detract from the unfortunate fact.

It pains me to say this, but what I’ve now come to interpret is the sad fact that while we are family, we are not friends. Spending time together has almost become an obligation just because instead of the desire that it once was. Because to good friends, you share everything with them. You talk about the highs and lows of your life. You may even go to a specific friend for advice. You talk about your innermost secrets. You laugh, you cry and you share the world together. But with certain members of my family, I cannot do this. And I’m pretty sure that this is the case for them as well. 

I feel like I don't know my family; I know them in a sense that I know their mannerisms and what they like and what they're good at, but I don't know them in that deep heartfelt way and I feel that they don't know me either. 

Furthermore, if I have an issue - whether someone or something has upset me, or even something as big as this problem in its entirety - I wouldn't feel comfortable enough to talk to them for fear of upsetting them – I dislike conflict – or overstepping the boundaries of respect. And there are things – issues that I have - that even now I’ve kept bottled up for years, and it's not healthy in the slightest.

All families have secrets nonetheless so maybe I’m not at all that different. At the same time, however, all of this concerns me and as I have intentions of travelling overseas next year, I feel that this needs to be rectified as soon as possible.

So how do we become friends? How do we become comfortable enough with each other to tell each other anything and everything? How do we get things back to the way they once were?

Is it as easy as picking up the phone or spending time together? Because I visit them every couple of weeks or every other month – and I never seem to feel any different. Should I divulge a secret? Extend my trust? Because I’ve done this too and it hasn’t brought us any closer. Or should I air out my grievances and then attempt to start afresh? Stir the pot; let emotions fly and then reconcile because it’s impossible to bring up an issue these days without upsetting somebody.

My advice?

Well, if I’m honest, I’m actually at a loss this time. And I’m usually full of logical solutions to problems. And I know that while there are families all over the world that are closely-knit, there are also, families that can’t stand each other.

Only I seem to be in the unhappy medium. :/