Wednesday, March 1, 2017

just do...what?

(Original image via: Vintage Everyday
It’s not yet 10am and already I’ve had quite a morning. I’ve read an article on perimenopause (this is very #GroundhogDay for me), an article on the crooked Minister of Social Development (also a little #GroundhogDayish)  and a piece about how evangelists have been termed “America’s Taliban”. I’ve also read why celebrities wear heels that are too big for them (to be fair, this was more a “look” than a “read”) and last but not least, I’ve increased the zoom to 125% on Word and have had to put my spectacles on.

Sigh. As my mum always says, getting old isn’t for sissies.

She’s right, you know. My mum. But I’d like to add to her statement and say that evidently, getting old is about revealing to you, via elimination, all the things you aren’t destined to become. These revelations are delivered with equal measures of tragedy and hilarity, depending on your hormone cycle.

For those of you who have known since childhood what you wanted to be, good for you. For the rest of us, even as we skirt menopause, life is one long battle to discover what we are meant to “be” one day when we’re grown up.

For example, when I was in high school, I thought (for about 24 hours) about becoming a theatre performer. My oldest sister is fabulous on stage and I hoped it was perhaps a genetic thing that just needed to “kick in” under the right conditions. Accordingly, I decided to audition for the part of Miss Hannigan in Annie. Auditions took place at lunchtime in the team teaching room and we all had to stand in a line, side by side, as the teacher stood facing us. She then asked us, one person at a time, to sing.

As I heard all the other hopeful Miss Hannigans sing, I convinced myself “You can do this”. I assumed that a racing heart and dry mouth was normal – stagefright, you understand – and that these maladies would clear up the minute I was put on the spot, so to speak. The teacher stood in front of me and signalled for me to begin and…nothing. Not a squeak came out of my mouth. It was as though I was lip-syncing to invisible music. I think I feigned a sore throat to try and hide the embarrassment of my non-performance.

Then, if my Standard 4 autobiography is to be believed, I’ve also had aspirations in the past of becoming a “sheep farmer’s wife” and moving onto a farm in the Karoo. For anyone who thinks children’s ambitions aren’t informed by the media, you are wrong. I remember specifically where this “sheep farm in the Karoo” idea came from. There was a Lux advertisement in the 80’s that was endorsed by a model, who may have even been an ex-Miss Something - someone like Vera Johns or Margaret Gardiner. I believe the script went something like this…

Model:        When I decided to move to a sheep farm in the Karoo, everyone said to me “But, Vera, what about your beautiful skin?” But I told them my skin would be fine because I use Lux.

I have no idea what was so appealing about this concept other than I may have thought that by moving onto a sheep farm I stood the possibility of being crowned the next Miss South Africa? To be fair, the model was snuggling a lamb so maybe this was the hook? Anyway, there were obvious flaws with this pipedream. Specifically, I loathe semi-desertious environments and I don’t use Lux.

Furthermore, seems unreasonable dreams and aspirations don’t stop at career choices. An element of improbability has permeated my self-belief regarding leisure activities and sporting challenges too.

Why, it was as recent as college, just after school, when I met someone who did Sky Diving. She did a presentation on it in the hall and by the time she was finished, I’d already had various fantasies about jumping out of aeroplanes and walking around in my red jumpsuit, strutting adrenaline-junkie swag. Again, there were, and still are, a number of issues with this dream: they don’t make jumpsuits with bum room big enough for my body type and, I can’t even look down when I travel in the glass lifts at Cavendish Square, so heaven only knows how I imagined I was going to jump out of an aeroplane.

Of late, my “anything is possible” attitude has me considering a) taking up surfing and/or b) walking the Appalachian trail. I’ve gone so far as to do a ton of “surfing strengthening” exercises at the gym. Mr Chilled, in a way that only he can, recently implied that sooner or later I would have to graduate from the gym and actually get into the water. Teenage smartarse. I’m sure he just wants to film me getting into my wetsuit so he can post it on “Fail Army”.

As for the Appalachian trail – as with any trail really – the problem is… I don’t see anyone walking in leggings. They all seem to wear those beige chino-type hiking pants and, unless you have a serious thigh gap, leggings of some sort are essential for walking and running. In fact, regardless of having a thigh gap or not, I have no idea how people do any kind of exercise in pants that don’t stretch. The very thought of wearing stiff pants (or, as BK calls them, pants that “work against you”) makes me want to throw in the towel before I’ve even started.

Still. There’s no need to give up entirely on my dreams. My Standard 4 autobiography also stated that I’d like to become an airhostess. I think it’s fair to say I’m already reasonably qualified for this role in that my kids have helped me hone my “you-just-sit-there-while-I-wait-on-you” skills. All I need to work out is how to walk in a pencil skirt and court shoes.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

lounging around...

Christmas is a mean time of year for freelancers. We don’t get jobs, which means we don’t get paid. Unfortunately, the kids expect Santa, the festive little bugger, to still come calling.

Because of this, I committed to working (in not-well-thought-out haste, I must confess) as a hospitality-slash-property manager for the holiday season. The first warning bell lies in the mismatch between the title of the job and my personality type. I’m not really the managey type at all, mostly because I can’t be arsed with that kind of thing. For the most part, I lived up to my commitment swimmingly and truly put my back into this meet, greet and pretend to give a sheet business. It primarily involves a lot of smiling, acting like I give a damn when guests have complaints and doing a lot of mooching around waiting for guests to arrive and check out.

I hate it. Firstly, I find this first-meeting business nerve wracking and consequently, I tend to be overly chatty and sweat like a MOFO. I also tend to either make corny jokes or to laugh too loudly at the guest’s corny jokes. Secondly, what I most hate, in a deep and fearsome way, is when guests complain about the lack of sun loungers.

Whaaaaaaat the fuuuuuck is with sunloungers??!?!

I’m of the thinking that the world can be neatly divided into SUNLOUNGER TYPES and NON-SUNLOUNGER TYPES for it seems that certain tourists tend to be really obsessed with sun loungers. Like reeeaaally OB.SESSED. So much so, that in hotels and lodges, these tourists will wake up super early and “reserve” a sunlounger with their towel and will sometimes even place a book on TOP OF the towel (NOTE: this is often a “fake” book that they have no intention of reading at all). The book makes it look as if someone has been sitting there reading since 4am and has just stepped away from said lounger to swim a few laps in the pool or go for a quick pee.

In case you’re sitting there thinking that this isn’t as serious as cancer for some people, just Google “no booking sun lounger signs” and you will find a slew of articles and anecdotes about this very matter. (Side Note: many hotels are completely fed up with the furore created over sun loungers and have placed signs in strategic areas that state “No Booking Sunloungers”. True Story). I found an article, which states "A British tourist would be quite within their legal rights to ignore the reservation implied by the towels if there is nobody there," said Cologne-based Mr Höcker…”. Mr Höcker, by the way, is a German lawyer (oh the irony!) who also, incidentally, cautions against doing “anything undiplomatic with the offending German towel.”  Mmm, I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure what undiplomatic towel actions involve but I think it’s best to leave some things well enough alone.

Another video and accompanying editorial I stumbled upon exposes British guests “booking” their sun loungers as though this was surely to be the biggest challenge – and indeed triumph - of their day. The footage, shot in fast motion (though it needn’t have been), shows crowds of tourists at a Spanish resort, streaming like lemmings through the door to the pool deck, rushing to the stack of sunloungers and feverishly finding a spot where they could park their sunlounger for the day. In the editorial section, one holiday maker lamented  how they “only got a sun-bed on two days in the week that we stayed there” and added that “If you don't go and queue for 45 minutes and then run with the crowds you don't get one." It’s the heart-breaking holiday-romance love story you’ve heard a thousand times... Tourist goes on holiday. Lack of sun lounger breaks her heart. Tourist’s holiday is utterly ruined. The struggle is real, people.

Anyway, this week I very hospitably checked in guests who, within two hours, called to complain about the dust bunnies behind the couch (which immediately begs the question, what, exactly, were they doing behind the couch?!?!?) Then, almost as an afterthought, but with the tone suggesting otherwise, they also recommended that “there should be more sun loungers. At least one for every guest.”

There are various scenarios which might call for sun lounger fixation. Firstly, if you were, say, very old or infirm, I think you present a valid argument for sun lounger obsession. Another scenario would be if you were at some place which was utterly lacking in beach sand or lawn on which you could potentially rest your weary bones. In this instance, I can see how you would actually NEEEEED a sun lounger. However, given that most places have either lawn or beach sand – hell, sometimes both! - I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that you just, you know, put your towel on the grass and your arse on your towel. Voila!

But no, it’s all about the fucking sunloungers. I shit you not, my colleague and partner in crime was told by guests that she looked after that “their holiday was utterly ruined due to the lack of sun loungers” and that it was “creating stress” for them on their holiday. The place where I checked guests in has, despite the worst drought in a million years, pristine, lush green grass due to borehole water. It’s positively bouncy. The guests did not share my enthusiasm for this fact when I pointed it out to them. They simply could not connect the dots between green grass …and…arse.

No. WE NEED SUNLOUNGERS!!!! It doesn’t matter that the garden is draped in dappled sunlight and has gorgeous trees where birds’ nest and bees buzz. It looks like a bloody botanical garden for Pete’s sake. NOOOOO!!! All that goes unnoticed because every faaaaaaarking venue is judged by the abundance – or lack of – sun fucking loungers.

If you could have seen the urgency with which the guests in the main house abducted ALL the sun loungers from the poolside and relocated them to alongside their veranda, the first thought that would have come to mind is Gollum and his Precioussssss. The guests at the adjoining cottage had not even handed over the keys and checked out completely when the main houseguests had already claimed all the sun loungers for themselves. They obsessively pursued the sun loungers in the same way that Scrat pursues his acorn in the movie Ice Age.

It’s enough to make you weep. Truly. It just made me want to make a bonfire with our sun loungers at home just so that we’re not associated with that kind of shit. The sun lounger culture is truly mystifying. To begin with, it makes me wonder, what exactly do these folk do in real life that’s so exhausting that they need to spend an entire holiday lying on a sun lounger? And also, what do they think will happen to them if they lie on the lawn or beach sand?

I was once told - by an actual British person mind you -  that British people don’t go on holiday to explore, they go on holiday to lie in the sun and get drunk. Bearing this in mind, sun lounger mania makes total sense. Who, after a hard night’s drinking, has the mind to do anything but recline? The thing is, it seems that it’s not only the Greece Uncovered-type tourist who suffers from sun lounger neurosis. It seems to be totally widespread, across all demographics.

When I related my confusion regarding sun lounger preoccupation to a friend of mine, he suggested that all holidaymakers be handed a “holiday etiquette guide”. This would include things like not wearing socks and sandals, not tipping what is the equivalent of 20 pence in your home currency, and NOT sitting on a sun lounger. This guide, he suggested, could imply that any kind of sun lounger related behaviour is totally passé. Touristically taboo. Frowned on. Scoffed at.

Because when you think about how ridiculous it all is, it is definitely a little ridiculous. There’s no other way to put it.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

butt seriously...

(Image via
The other day I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. I was to meet with a client for the first time and she asked the very innocent question: What do you look like?

Now, since I recently cut my hair and it’s gone from long and curly to short and dykish (BTW, some of my best friends are dykes so don’t take this as a slur) it made answering her question pretty easy, because not a lot of women have such short, I-just-had-lice haircuts. However, just in case there were, say, truckloads of people planning to come to the same coffee shop with the same hairdo as me, I felt compelled to add a further detail of how she might identify me. And that is, I have a big butt.

But the truth is, I just couldn’t say it. Firstly because I didn’t really want her looking at my butt, and secondly because it might’ve make her uncomfortable if she had to look at all the other butts that came through the door that morning.

But there’s more to this big butt issue and I’ll tell you why. To begin with, I think I should describe my butt. Broadly speaking, just so that you get the picture. My bum is such that I’d give Sartjie Baartman a run for her money. And as for that photo shoot that Kim Kardashian did with a champagne glass balancing on her butt? Piece of cake for me (which is probably half the problem here.)

Just to be clear, this isn’t a vanity issue. No. It’s a comfort issue and it’s a social issue. I’ll explain.

First, the comfort issue. I have one of those butts that’s not only an outy bum, it’s also a looooong bum. It seems to start halfway up my back and end rather low down my hamstrings. It actually butts into my hamstrings, pardon the pun. In fact, it butts into my hamstrings so greatly that I’m not really sure where the butt ends and the hamstring begins.

What is the problem with and outy and longy bum, I hear you say? Well, to begin with, it makes clothes buying veeeery bloody tricky. What fits in the bum, drowns at the waist and what fits in the waist, ain’t no fecking way is getting around the bum.

But there’s more to it. Take exercise for instance. Running = tricky. Very bloody tricky. When running (or, say, doing star jumps), an outy-longy bum appears to be on a journey all of it’s own. You can see it moving up and down, this way and that and for the big-bum owner, it feels like they have a sack attached to their waist in which two pigs are fighting (thus the proverbial “two pigs fighting in a sack” expression).

Exercises like planking (or God forbid, press ups) are also problematic because you’re weighed down at the crucial part. It feels like you have a hefty 4-year-old child sitting on your hips. Same goes for side plank a.k.a the mermaid (a side note here: such a deceiving term, that. Mermaids live in water, which makes them buoyant.) Same also goes for the yoga bridge, and as for a backbend, well no chance in hell this is happening because as you know, the higher your butt is supposed to be thrust, the more gravity pulls on it. It’s a whole Newton thing apparently.

But the comfort issue is small when compared with the social issue of having a big butt. One thing I can tell you for sure, is that if people do like butts, it’s for some kind of perverted reason. For example, you’ll very seldom hear people say “Oh, that’s a nice butt. I’d like to take it out to dinner”, or “Wow, look at that big butt. I’d like to roll it up in a blankie, make it some tea and watch a rom-com with it”. You don’t even hear people say things like “Shoowee. Now that’s a butt I’d like to play a game of tennis with.” No. When people talk about butts it’s always with reference to, umm, “tapping that”.

If you don’t believe me, I can prove it to you. Here’s a small sample of lyrics of some songs I know about butts…

The bigger the cushion, the sweeter the pushin’. Oh, the irony Spinal Tap! Should a band with such big hair be talking about big things on other people?

Baby make your booty go da na da na. This is from “Thong Song” – who could forget it -which is pretty much ALL about butts. It was hard to choose just one line.

My Anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun. Seriously? That’s just fucking frightening right there, starting with the word “anaconda”.

Too much booty in the pants. Erm, and this from Soundmaster T who in all likelihood has too much gold in the teeth.

“Shake your ass” ß Almost any rap song.

“Ass, Ass, Ass” ß EVERY rap song.

You’d think that at least country music would be exempt from this kind of butt fixation but no, Trace Adkins proves otherwise when he sings, It’s so hard to stare at that honky tonk, badonkbadonk.

Get my drift? I nearly rest my case. But to really drive home my point, I’ll illustrate how all this butt-talk is contrary to when people talk about other body parts they fancy. Take eyes, for instance.

Van Morrison longs to take his Brown Eyed girl to do the things they used to do. Like “laughing and a-running, skipping and a-jumping, going down the old mine, and standing in the sunlight laughing. See, no suggestion of getting humped or tapped and no pressure to shake anything at all.

Elton John sings about how when the morning comes he’ll be far away from Baby’s Blue Eyes. And that she’ll be alone, which is great because she won’t having anyone breathing down her neck wanting to tap her blue eyes.

And good old Angel Eyes, well, she gets to drink whiskey with her water, dance when the stars come out, leave you dreaming and rock out by the bonfire. Hell, she even gets to sing with the choir. Still no reference to getting in the sack with old Angel Eyes. No, she just gets observed from afar and left peacefully alone.

Nowhere will you hear things like “Man, I want to take those eyes home and fuck ‘em”. You won’t even hear “Gimma a piece of those eyes” or “Shake those eyes baby, shake em”.  No. All those kind of lewd suggestions are reserved for butts alone.

My dilemma with this butt business is that you don’t want people to be repulsed by big butts but equally, you definitely don’t want them to like butts too much either. 

In my mind – and I know I’m not alone here – the only way around it is to hide your butt as best you can. This is one of the main reason’s you’ll see women go jogging with a sweater tied around their waists on a 38 degree Summer’s day. It’s because some arctic wind is just about to blow in, it’s to hide their bums. Actually, this is even something that girls who have smallish bums do.

Look. Unless we’re Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez or Arianna Grande, we just don’t want people staring at our bums. It’s kind of rude, no matter how big or small it is.

Still. If one can manage to ignore all the references to fucking and tapping and shaking, it’s not so bad to have a big butt. For instance, we can thank heavens that we don’t carry our weight on other parts of our bodies. For instance, on our necks. Or on our forearms. Or, in fact, on any other body part that would seriously encumber us. Just imagine for a moment that when we put on weight, it went straight to our fingers and then we’d have to try and write and type and cook and stuff with these really, really fat fingers. Now that’s a horrible thought.

I’ll leave you with this fun thought: Next time you hear a song about butts, insert the word “teeth” where arse, butt or bum would normally appear and then have a good laugh when you imagine someone “shaking their teeth”.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

karma chameleon...

When I first started blogging, it was for another website that didn't belong to me. This means I had to obey the blog owner and I was under strict instructions to “steer clear of religion, politics and sex.” Fortunately, I know almost nothing about politics, and sex is, well, there’s enough sex online as it is. Religion, however, has me foxed.

Truthfully, I was going to leave this topic well enough alone, but when I got one of those chain-mail type messages via Facebook yesterday which talked about karma, I took it as “a sign”.

To go back a bit, my personal relationship with religion has been a bit  unstable. This, to be quite clear, has not been due to lack of commitment on my part. When I was little, my mum attended the Methodist church and we attended the Sunday School. For some reason, I found the whole religious instruction environment rather intimidating, so much so that I was always too scared to ask if I could go to the loo. Consequently, my memories of Sunday School are mostly of me having peed in my pants.

Because many Bible stories involve miracles and angels visiting unsuspecting virgins, I believed that an angel visit was essential to becoming a “real” believer (after all, an angel is pretty good proof, right?) The way I saw it, an angel had to visit you to deliver the spirit of Christ, who would then “move you”, and you would be a changed person forever. A reborn Christian. You can imagine then, that I was rather disappointed and felt somewhat let down that I never made the cut for an angel visit, despite my nightly prayers being very specific - as in “Dear God, please send an angel tonight so that I know you are real”.

We left the Methodist church when I got older and switched to the Presbyterian church. I’m not sure why this happened but it could be because a) the reverend at the Presbyterian church had a much cooler name – his name was Reverend Melrose, and b) Reverend Melrose wore “sport-about” shoes, which were considered very cool in the 80’s. (You absolutely can’t find a picture of these online so perhaps it was just a South African thing, but they were made out of fabric, usually pale blue, navy or grey, and had foamy soles. They looked a little like a fabric version of old men’s hush puppies – you know the lace-up, moccasiny kind that has piping along the top seam.)

Anyhow, my “Presbyterian Phase” did little to clarify religious issues for me (and still, no angel). I had graduated from Sunday School to the Grown-Up’s Church, but found this to be a rather sleepy affair. In fact, to this very day, when my bum touches those slide-shaped pews, I can feel my eyelids grow heavy. There’s just something so relaxing about the tone and metre of the preacher’s voice that for the life of me, I can’t keep awake. Along with watching golf and cricket on TV, it’s like taking the strongest sleeping pill in the world. In an attempt to overcome my church-sleeping habit, I once went along to one of those “enthusiastic” churches with a friend of mine (I have always, ALWAYS confused “evangelical” with “enthusiastic”) but I didn’t feel like I was being very authentic when I tried to join the other folk who were rocking out to the songs. You either feel it, or you don’t, if you know what I mean.

Anyhow, back to my Facebook message. It mentioned karma. Please be assured, I’m not knocking karma, there’s just a lot of things that don’t make sense to me.

Firstly, I’ve read that karma and reincarnation are inseparable. But, my question is what is the point of having all these lives if you can’t remember them? Surely, if one is to reincarnate as a higher and wiser being, you would have to actually remember the lessons you learnt from a previous life otherwise you would tend to make the same mistakes all over again? It’s like when I’ve forgotten that I already ate breakfast, and then I get all excited around 10:30 because I think I haven’t eaten and have a second breakfast because I forgot about the first one. And also, I’m sure you’ve read accounts where people claim to still suffer from, say, pain in their ribs which turns out to be an old wound from a previous life. By why would you still feel the repercussions of a stab wound from the Middle Ages, but forget other things? And what if you felt the stab wound, but the injury wasn’t even your fault, like someone had stabbed you in a jousting competition and neither of you were being mean at the time, it was just bad luck because someone always gets hurt? The point is, you can’t learn from it if you can’t remember it. Surely?

Secondly, karma seems to assign some kind of hierarchy to living things. You may have heard, as I have, that it is possible to be reincarnated as a “lower” life form. Like, say, a pig. This, I feel is very unfair, because who says that pigs are less valuable than humans? Also, if you were a pig, it would be quite hard to improve yourself through, say, charity work, so that you could reincarnate to something “higher”, like a donkey or even a horse. I mean how would you do it? Similarly, what bad deed could a pig possibly perform that could make him reincarnate as something “lower” than a pig?

Perhaps I have it all wrong. Perhaps people don’t reincarnate as animals and vice versa. Perhaps you just reincarnate as a different kind of person. But here’s the thing. How do less fortunate people feel about karma? It’s all very well to talk about karma if you live comfortably, have all limbs in working order and have food in your belly. Right? Not to be funny, but don’t you think that sounds a little smug? I mean what should people suppose if they are poor, or have no hearing or eyesight, or were born disabled? I very much doubt that they spend their lives thinking “Ah yes, I had this coming because I was such a shit in my previous life”.  

Thirdly, I’m sure you’ve seen comments on those viral videos that show super talented young kids doing something in a very skilled way. Inevitably, you will see that someone in the comments thread has suggested that the said kid is "channelling a previous life". But here’s the thing. If we’re supposed to carry on growing and learning, surely your talents from one life wouldn’t carry across to your next life. For instance, if you were a naturally gifted tennis player in one life, surely you should come back in your next life to learn how to hone another skill so that you could learn new things about yourself (and be less of a showoff on the court)?

When I’ve questioned karma in the past, I’ve been told that I’m being “too literal”. That it isn’t an immediate cause-effect thing. That it isn’t materialistic. That karma isn’t about revenge or punishment, but rather that it’s about, well, not those things. But when I signed up as an organ donor a few years ago, someone said to me “Oh no! I could never do that! I don’t want to spend my next life without corneas or essential organs”. This, as you can imagine, came as a big disappointment to me, because I’d figured that giving up things in this life to serve the needs of others would elevate me to some kind of angel status in my next life. Shit.

Lastly, I think that if karma and reincarnation do exist, it would be useful if there were specific pointers on exactly what should be done in order to reincarnate “higher”. Deeds and traits such as “kindness”, “smiling”, “swearing under your breath and not out loud” should be given scores so that you could add them up and know how you’re faring. That way, we could have little rests in between all this learning and growing so that we could have more energy to learn and grow the next day. Just so that we can do it all over again in our next life.

I once read “Karma’s A Beach” on a kids backpack. It was made in China and was probably one of those wrong translation things. But I hope it’s true because that’s the karma I’m interested in.