Few things are as relaxing to me as taking a bath. Well, getting a massage, or lying in the arms of the person you love while they whisper comforting words aren’t bad options either. But I just got out of a nice, long bath and have to wonder; why is it that being in water feels so good?

They say it’s because our bodies are mostly made up of water. So our bodies feel at home in water.  Or because we spend the first nine months of our existence in amniotic fluid. Which is why birthing in water is gaining popularity as a much less traumatic experience for mother and baby. Seems women have done it alone instinctively for thousands of years all over the world. And by the way, babies can instinctively swim, from birth, they loose that ability at about six months.

Or maybe it’s because the first organisms on earth lived in water. I’m not a scientist but I think I remember from biology class that ‘life’ has technically existed on earth for almost 4 billion years, but life on land only for 400 million years. Without giving yourself a math headache, you can tell that’s a long time it took for ‘us’ to get out of the water. Tolle, the modern-day philosopher and ‘spiritual’** teacher, who wrote two of the books that are always somewhere by my bedside, tells it nicely:

It is believed that the life­forms on this planet first evolved in the sea. When there were no animals yet to be found on land, the sea was already teeming with life. Then at some point, one of the sea creatures must have started to venture onto dry land. It would perhaps crawl a few inches at first, then exhausted by the enormous gravitational pull of the planet, it would return to the water, where gravity is almost nonexistent and where it could live with much greater ease. And then it tried again and again and again, and much later would adapt to life on land, grow feet instead of fins, develop lungs instead of gills. It seems unlikely that a species would venture into such an alien environment and undergo an evolutionary transformation unless it was compelled to do so by some crisis situation. There may have been a large sea area that got cut off from the main ocean where the water gradually receded over thousands of years, forcing fish to leave their habitat and evolve.

So somewhere in our cells or ancestral memory we must still feel subconsciously that land and gravity are foreign and tiring to us… thus we feel so free and happy  and light when we are floating in the sea or soaking in a bath. Sea water heals your skin and your soul. Running into the ocean or jumping into a pool can be exhilarating and fun.

One bath souvenir I have is from when I once was in Winnipeg, Canada, and here I will go a bit- a lot, off-topic. Winnipeg is the capital and largest city of the province of Manitoba, which is somewhere in the center of Canada. It was quite a random place for me to be. I had never heard of it when I was invited to go, nor had anyone I knew. I don’t think it’s exactly a place you’d randomly decide to cross the world to visit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice place- as most of Canada is. Nice, peaceful, laid-back atmosphere. And it boasts the Royal Canadian Mint, where coins for many of the world’s currencies are made- you’d be surprised, countries from all over the world. Speaking of the Royal Canadian Mint, they are now working on creating digital coins, so you don’t have to carry change in your pocket. It won’t be like a credit card, it will be anonymous, not connected to you, just like coins. They are still developing it, and trying to attract tech geniuses, software developers and hackers to help, and are going to pay them in solid gold. 50,000$ worth of solid gold coins and bars to start with. So get on it, friends.

Northern Manitoba even has Polar bears (though I didn’t see them). What’s not so pleasant about Winnipeg however… are the mosquitos. There are so many of them that you’ll find postcard and magnet souvenirs that humorously depict the Mosquito as the Provincial Bird of Manitoba. Here’s a photo of the one I have on my fridge:

It’s so bad that I had to lather on industrial amounts of mosquito repellent cream and spray myself constantly. Even then, I would have to watch as tens of them calmly stung me. See, they don’t move like regular mosquitos if you wave your arm. They are happy and comfortable, and don’t let their meal get disturbed. As the Winnipeggers or Manitobans advised, the only way to get some small measure of relief (ah and here we return to our topic) in the evenings from the swelling and itching is to soak in a bath of Epsom salts. Which we did. And it was so lovely it turned me on to baths. Usually sans Epsom salts though.

I especially love having my ears underwater in the bath. Do you know the sound? Seems to quiet out the whole world and your thoughts. Baths sometimes make me feel guilty though; ‘Waste of water’, ‘the environment’, etc. I always turn off the water when other people are brushing their teeth and letting the water run. Maybe we should all take ‘navy showers’- where you turn the water on for a few seconds to get wet, then turn it off to shampoo and soap and lather, then on to rinse. But I’m not ready to give up my baths just yet. And I really only have them very occasionally.

Yet it is true, world water supplies are shrinking and the population is increasing and we need to be more mindful of our water use. Last year, a certain small island country actually ran out of water (read here). Writing about water I also can’t help but think of all the people who don’t have access to clean water to drink. I had no idea just how many until now. Over 800 million people (source). That’s more than one in ten of us! Thankfully, a lot is being done and the situation is improving little by little (a bit of good news). Will list some ways we can help at the end of the post.

Water is a very particular liquid, defined by my mac’s built-in dictionary as ‘a colorless, transparent, odorless, tasteless liquid that forms the seas, lakes, rivers, and rain and is the basis of the fluids of living organisms.’ Have you read or seen Masuru Emoto’s work on messages in water? Though considered pseudoscience by most, it’s still fascinating to look at. He basically thinks that feelings can affect water molecules. He takes photographs of the frozen water molecules, then exposes them to music, prayer, or simply loving words, then photographs them again.

Here are before and after pictures:

Even if physicists are right in saying that his “watery fantasy is all very entertaining and imaginative, full of New Age feel-good platitudes, holistic oneness, consciousness raising, and warm fuzzies”(Hall A. H.), the results are still beautiful, regardless what it means, or how ‘real’ it is.

This may not be the deepest or most emotional blog post, I really wrote it as a way to answer my own wondering this morning about why being submerged in a bath feels so good, but why not celebrate water? Such a simple yet wonderful thing. It feels pretty darn good to have a drink when you’re parched. Or to have a shower with someone… So just remember to enjoy it. And get your eight glasses a day ;-)

(** I marked the word because it’s a word I don’t always feel comfortable with. It feels a bit pretentious and at times too loaded with connotations).  

Water‘ is a beautiful movie about the plight of widows in India, set against the backdrop and theme of water. ‘Flow‘ is an award-winning documentary that explores the question of privatisation of water, and whether anyone (let own big multinational corporations) can own water. 

Ways to help: Drop in the bucket, and Water Forward.

Writer’s blog. I mean block.

Someone very dear to me tells me to write about what I’m feeling or experiencing at this moment. And as you may have noticed, one of the things I have obviously been experiencing is an inability to write. Well, let’s not call it an inability just yet. But fact is, I haven’t written in a couple of months.

It makes me sad when someone understandably asks; so, you’re done with the blog? I sure hope I’m not! The very thought makes me feel like I’ve abandoned something precious.I love this blog. This blog got me writing. It got me crystalizing my thoughts and sharing them. It got me having exchanges and conversations about these thoughts with people I don’t know. Some of the comments people have posted are priceless to me. This blog feels like one of the best things I’ve done, and more than that, it’s my baby. Created out of the blue one day after work, and taking on a life of its own after that.

So what happened? Why have I for the past weeks, felt pressured to write but uninspired to do so. I still get loads of great ideas, but somehow, the more time passes, the harder it is for me to sit down and write. It begins to feel like this big thing that I should do, like something I have to do. And that’s not what it should be like. That’s not what it was. Before, it was a delicious pleasure, something all of my own.

All those who have ever procrastinated about a task will know the feeling. The more you put something off, the more unpleasant it becomes in your head. The more you tell yourself you ‘must’ do something, the less you want to. Yet we torment ourselves with ‘should’s’ and ‘must’s’. The great psychologist Albert Ellis calls this ‘musturbation’.

In relation to blogs in particular, I was surprised at the timeliness and synchronicity of randomly receiving this blog post in my inbox even though it is not a blog I follow. The post is called ’12-step program for very bad bloggers’ and begins like this;

Hi, my name is Jeny and I have blogger’s guilt. Unlike Catholic guilt, where you feel guilty about something you’ve done, blogger’s guilt comes from something you haven’t done.
I feel like I should blog, because I have a blog and then it doesn’t help that I’ve received massive amounts of requests from my reader to write something.

And yes, she says ‘reader’ not ‘readers’ because she muses that she must only have one reader left after not writing for so long. Hehhehe. Yes, it’s good to take your writing blo(ck/g) with a pinch of humor. So I hope you’re enjoying this post, my dear reader.

My friend Yasmina also wrote a post about writer’s block, back in January. So maybe we all go through it. And I don’t just mean writers or bloggers. Everyone. With different things. Don’t we all have things we start by simply wanting to do, then think we ought to do, and then don’t do.

So what brought this on?

Well, first off, some big life changes. Big changes make it hard to keep up your regular activities.

Does being in a relationship again play a part? I once read that married women can’t write. That somehow being in a relationship stifles creativity. I don’t believe that at all. Love, the good kind, should give you wings (yes, just like Red Bull or Always pads).

Anyway, around the time I stopped writing, I wrote a post about getting over relationships. A painful, heart-felt post. But I didn’t post it because I knew it would hurt someone. Two someones. My ex, and my new beau. Yes they both read my blog.

Friends I showed the post to also said; don’t publish it. It was the first time I’d censored myself. It made me wish I’d managed to keep my blog completely anonymous. (By the way, my ex found my blog because he’d seen it posted by someone on facebook, and had recognized my writing. I was touched, and still am, by how much he liked it, and how happy he was that I was writing. He said; you’ve always written, in your head, and in the way you talk and describe things, but now it’s finally out there!)

Even though the post was not just about them, but about breakups in general, breakups my friends had told me about, and even though I knew I’d written the post in an emotional moment that did not necessarily reflect the rest of reality, I knew they’d feel it did*.

Not posting it cut my flow. Before that, and from the beginning of the blog, I’d simply written and posted. Posting was part of my process. Something was in my head, then on ‘paper’ (that is Word processing virtual paper), then on the blog. There was no overthinking (which was very healthy for me, as everyone who knows me knows, I overthink everything and it makes me hesitant and indecisive). Nothing I wrote stayed inside, not in my head or heart or harddrive. But that post stayed there, festering in all those places. And knowing that the reason was self-censorship made it even worse. The whole point of the blog was to just openly share my thoughts. To feel free. To do something ‘me’.

The other thing that simultaneously happened is that people started to read the blog. It passed the 5,000 view mark, Leb-aggregator mentioned it, and Ragmag ran that little piece. Suddenly I began to worry if people would like my next posts. What if I’d simply been lucky with the first ones? What if I couldn’t write like that anymore? Was my ability to write just a temporary fluke? I know I shouldn’t think like that. I know I should just write and not worry who likes what or even whether anyone likes any of it.

The censorship and the fear seemed to take away the innocence of the beginning, the writing for the pleasure of writing, and of sharing. Now I felt I had something to live up to, topics I had to tiptoe around, and people’s feelings to worry about.

But I want to write, and I’m writing right now. And it feels great. But I’m still tiptoeing around certain things, and I’ll have to find a way to make that work.

So here I go, biting the bullet and trying again. Writing again.

*The things I write are a subjective amalgam of different things. Things that are happening now, things that have happened long ago. To me, to others. They’re always heartfelt and real, but not always what they seem. It’s writing, not reporting. 

On that particular morning,

Somewhere along the way, without knowing quite how or quite when, wednesdays had become her favorite day of the week. On that particular morning, she woke up and

That line popped into my head out of the blue today. I scribbled it down and thought it would make a great beginning to a short story or even novel. Wanna have a go at it? Give me some possible continuations to this sentence. Whether a couple of words or a couple of pages.

On real paper!

So what is my excuse this time for not having posted anything for nearly 2 weeks? I’ve been sick. Ok not for the whole 2 weeks, but at least since thursday, so 6 days, but still. Right now I’m in bed, wearing a sweater and scarf on top of my pj’s, surrounded by my new best friends; the kleenex box, the mug of hot ginger with honey, the effervescent vitamin C, the cough drops and syrup, and the Panadol Cold and Flu. Those who know me know that I am usually opposed to medication, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

But I did receive something today that made me perk up a bit: The February 2012 issue of Ragmag. In it there are three blogs mentioned, chosen because it is the month of love supposedly, and these three blogs somehow talk about love. Yes ladies and gentlemen, ‘Yup, this is it’ is the first one featured! (on page 130 in case you wanna run out and buy a copy). The wonderful Liliane Assaf of Lebanon Aggregator chose the 3 blogs and wrote a lovely piece about each. Liliane, whom I don’t know in person, keeps a directory of all Lebanese blogs, and organizes blogger meet-up’s. Pretty cool stuff. She was also the one who suggested some title ideas in response to the Non-Post.

So basically this is the first time that ‘Yup, this is it’ has had an incarnation in any way, shape or form on actual physical printed paper. Here is a screenshot of the piece:

And this is the (beautiful) cover of the issue:

Does this mean the blog has become immortal? How come paper feels more permanent and solid, though online material can potentially stay in ‘space’ forever? Have you ever wondered what happens to your blogs, your email account, your facebook when you die?

Back in November, I was at an extremely inspiring all-day event called Creative Social which ‘brings together the world’s most pioneering and award-winning’ creative directors, designers, and marketers. One of the presenters, Fernanda Romano, who goes by the name Fefa, spoke about this very topic. She said our online selves are kind of like the robots or cyborgs we imagined years ago. They are other ‘I’s that live in cyber space. And apparently, we’d better start thinking about what we want to happen to that ‘I’ when our flesh and blood ‘I’ dies.

Facebook for example, after several unfortunate incidents where someone had died and suggestions to friend them still popped up in relatives’ mailboxes, now gives next of kin the following options: Take the profile of the person down, hand over the content to the family, or create a ‘memorialization’, a page that people can visit, post and view pictures, etc. A facebook profile basically, but not exactly.

Gmail also allows next of kin to retrieve content of a user who has died. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any relatives of mine going through my emails. Ever. So finding this out from Fefa made me want to somehow delete all my content before I die. And yes, you can do that. There now are websites that allow you to decide what happens to (all) your online profiles when you die. One of the sites is called ifidie.net. Kinda sweet (or optimistic?) that they didn’t name it whenidie.net. Check it out, it’s a bit eery.

According to Fefa, our virtual ‘I’s don’t even have to die. If we take someone born in this millenium, by the time they die they will have accumulated so much online content and written and expressed so much that their persona will be out there, and technology will allow that persona to continue to interact with others after the physical ‘I’ is gone. There are people working on software that collects your online activity and, with sufficient data, can predict what you would do next.

Thatcan.be predicts your next tweet, but just for fun, and in a hilarious way :-)

The discussion about our digital afterlives is a bit uncomfortable. What about our soul? If we want to think about any kind of afterlife (and we don’t have to), isn’t it nicer to dream of a soul, an essence, a spark, an imperceptible flutter of a feeling that lives on, rather than an online software-generated persona?

Yet what about the pro’s of leaving an online trail? My grandmother died when I was 8 and I only ever knew her as old-ish (or seeming old to my 8-year-old self) and sick. I would have loved to be able to know her more after her passing through a blog (among other things she was a writer), or a facebook page she might have left. These things would have allowed me to continue to get to know her as I also grew from age 8 into a teen and into a now (sort of) adult. It would also have allowed me to know her at the different stages of her own life, since facebook profiles are now timelines. Our children will know us in different ways than we know our parents, that’s for sure. For one thing, if we ‘friend’ them on facebook they will have access to pictures of all we were up to and that we won’t be able to tell them not to do.

So these are our digital after-lives. Instead of visiting our graves, our loved ones will visit a facebook page or website filled with photos and memories. What do you think?

Baby take off your shoes.

Sat in on a memoir-writing class led by a poet and a third grade English teacher. They gave us random words, and told us to free-write for 15-minutes for each word. They told us to just go with the flow, no editing and no logic. I told them not to worry about me and logic, my posts are generally illogical already.

Here are the words I was given:  Shoes; Watermelon; Home. Not going to be the deepest posts ever.

Let’s start with shoes.

Shoes carry my feet. That’s not right, they are a cover and support for my feet. They protect my feet from the weather, from broken glass and urine on the street. I’ve sometimes wondered if shoes are really needed- except of course for city walking and all the hazards that would entail including cars running over your naked feet, particularly in this city. What I wondered about was more if shoes are a cultural phenomenon like ties (the ultimate function-less item of clothing, seen by many as oppressive, representing western imperialism, or office oppression- did you know ties are forbidden for all IKEA employees? I still think men look great in ties sometimes). Are shoes even good for your feet? I don’t mean stilettos- which probably aren’t, but just any good old shoes. They’re not apparently. Check out this article about how it took 4 million years for humans to perfect the way they walk and how it’s all being changed, and ruined, by shoes. And that’s not nothing. It affects the way we hold ourselves, our backs, everything. Do you like those new Vibram 5-toe shoe thingies? I haven’t tried them yet, but I imagine it’s a cool experience. My friend E.O. wears them, and even manages to make them look fab.

I know from my parents that they never put any shoes on my feet until I was a year old. I walked at 10 months, but only wore my first shoes two months later, and only because it was winter in Maine where my parents were vagabonding, and too cold to be barefoot. I still have a thing about walking barefoot. Especially on soil or grass or sand.

Some people have favorite shoes. My brother will wear a single pair daily through and through, until it’s time to replace it. I like the idea of using something fully and entirely. Whether it is used and re-used by you or someone else or many ‘someone else’s, I like giving things a new life, and allowing them to fulfill their destiny. Someone’s cast off’s could be someone else’s treasures and find a new home with them. Speaking of homes and giving things a new life, a friend of mine who is visiting from abroad went with his dad to visit their family home in the South, and he was telling me how the house has been entirely refurbished and furnished (from doors to beds) using the old items from every home they (or other of their relatives) have had. His dad showed him ‘the first bed your mom and I had’, and other poetic memories. He said it made the style a bit messy and overly eclectic, but I love the idea.

It’s amazing how the shoes you wear affect how you feel. There’s a big difference (and I’ve heard men say the same) between how you feel when you wear your converse or when you wear more formal shoes. My rain boots for example make me feel so playful and child-like. They make me smile and I purposefully walk (jump?) into puddles when no one is looking. I used to never wear high heels, except at weddings for some reason. Made me feel too tall, too pushy, overpowering. Always made me feel like I was in disguise, not really me, like I was a kid playing dress up in my mom’s shoes. Which I remember vividly (or do I remember because I’ve seen a photograph?), age 3, after a bath, walking around the house naked wearing my mom’s red shoes and giggling non-stop. My mom by the way, doesn’t really wear heels either. At weddings though they only made me feel elegant and sexy. Oh and blistery. Since my last birthday, I’ve decided to wear more heels, bought several cute strappy ones in different colors and materials and am looking forward to nights out to wear them.

And shoes say a lot about a person. You express yourself and who you want to project yourself to be through your shoes. Do you ever find yourself discreetly checking out a person’s shoes when you are trying to figure out who they are?

Shoes, so many expressions and sayings and ideas about shoes. Walk a mile in someone’s shoes, a horseshoe for luck, put yourself in my shoes. So what’s in a shoe? A sole. A soul? Shoo, get out of here.  Your shoes will show you the way out.

Shoe size. We could go into all the issue of why small foot size for some people and in some cultures is a desirable trait in women. Chinese foot bindings, foot fetishes, etc. etc.

Shoes are our base, our anchor, our standing ground, delimiting the space we take up on the floor, on the earth. It is the surface of the soles of our shoes which our direct physical contact with the earth at any time.  Everywhere I go, I take up a small space on the ground, that’s where me talking, me eating, me running, comes up from. I don’t know if this is offensive, but what about people with no feet? Are they missing any of that groundedness, that connection with the earth?

So what is your shoe size? What is the size of your print on the world?

Tell me about your favorite shoes.

She’s mine.

As you know from the non-post, the title of this post was chosen by you. You voted, and I must admit I was surprised with the results- for some reason I’d thought ‘She’s mine’ would get the fewest votes.

Here’s the breakdown:

‘Edit when sober’: 2 votes*
‘Your grandma’s sex life’: 3 votes
‘She’s mine’: 11 votes*
‘Indecent proposal’: 4 votes

*Including these cool versions proposed by Lebanon Aggregator’s Liliane : ‘He’s mine’ and ‘Edit when sober: Adventures in blogging’ (which is exactly what I’d been thinking when I thought of ‘edit when sober’) 

Many of the votes came with interesting or funny or cool thoughts, worth sharing:

As creepy as this might seem…. but I’m honestly interested to know what you have to say about a grandma’s sex life.

“She’s mine”… I really want to know how can someone belong to someone else..In terms of Love/time/soul/ etc….

She’s totally mine!!

“Indecent proposal” as i’m sure you’ll have something way better than what the movie with the same title has offered…

I vote for “She’s mine” too. Possessive types come to mind…

Grandma’s sex life. Do it! (ehem ehem)

She’s mine! The never ending story…

12 of the votes were cast as replies directly on the blog, 5 on the Facebook page,  and 3 on twitter.

Readers also came up with amazing titles other than the ones proposed;

  1. Crossroads
  2. Two sides of the story
  3. Change of plan
  4. One shot at a time

I’ve decided that I’ll try to eventually write posts for all four originally proposed titles, as well as the four proposed by you. But let’s start with ‘She’s mine’.

First… in response to some comments… I know I’m always writing from a girl’s point of view and that what I write about men applies just as well to women etc. But I am a girl, and that’s the viewpoint I have access to, so let’s get over that. That said, I love getting guys’ perspectives, so please continue to give them to me through your comments, and write guests posts for me :-)

So ‘She’s mine’. Maybe the fact that this was the title voted for is a reflection of the fact that we instinctively see men as being in possession of women and not the other way around? Why?

What originally planted the title in my head was noticing that men are more likely to be crazy about you when they know they have competition. The goal of ‘having’ her, and winning over other males, becomes a huge motivation. I know I’m talking in very cliché terms and that it’s this type of logic that makes women (and men) end up playing games and basing their dating and relationship approaches on books like Why Men Marry Bitches. Personally I don’t believe that playing too many games is necessary. I read said book but could never bring myself to resist telling someone I like them or resist texting them when I feel like it. And wonderful men will love you to love them, will love you to say it, show it, will love you to be the one to call after that first date.

On the other hand, someone sent me this quote today that I must admit rings a bit true; “Men like to hunt so don’t be a dead deer.” For me it’s not about playing hard to get, but about being a full person, with your own stuff going on. Then people (men, women, friends, romances) will want to be with you. So maybe not being a dead deer simply means don’t be a desperate boring negative person, but a vibrant happy alive person. That’s why I believe you are more likely to find a real love when you’ve worked through (some of) your sh**, know yourself, and are comfortable with yourself.

But I do believe that jealousy is a motivating factor. Maybe that’s why sometimes men’s motivation to please and keep their woman happy fizzles after marriage. Once they feel ‘she’s mine’, she’s not going anywhere, they relax. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to relax and feel secure in a committed relationship. But personally I dread the thought of one day being taken for granted. When you’re dating someone, especially at the beginning, they might feel that they can loose you at any moment to someone else who has their eye on you, and this makes them go out of their way to make you happy… (not that I think you can wait for another person to make you happy, you have the biggest role to play in your own happiness).

Another aspect is much less malicious. When a guy knows you’re desired by others, it simply makes him feel lucky, which makes him thrilled to be with you.

The simple words ‘She’s mine’ solicited many responses. People thought a lot about possessiveness. Can we own someone? (Actually in a philosophical sense, can you ever own anything, even land or property, since you yourself are temporary?). Can we own another person’s body? Their soul? Would we even want to?

Is it about control? Do we want to make things and people ‘ours’ in order to control them? Once we try to control someone, have we not already made them cease to be who they were and who we originally wanted?

What is the opposite then, of ‘having someone’ and making them ‘yours’? Is it sharing? Do we want to share the people we love? We don’t mind sharing friends, but usually we refuse to share lovers (a future post can tackle the issue of whether monogamy is natural for human beings or if its failure rates reflect that it is a forced convention). Another complication is the fact that the word to ‘share’ implies that the thing/person is already yours to share, that it is you who are ‘allowing’ the sharing to take place. The truth is, as a lovely person recently told me, you’re just sharing that which is being shared by and with everyone and by and with all of life, and belongs to no one.

Hmmmm is this the reason that women are often at their best when they are single? This applies to me and many of my friends. When I’m single, I’m bustling with energy, super active, involved in dozens of activities (ok I do that even when in a relationship- but let’s say even more so when single), I’m more sociable, more daring, more creative, I organize all sorts of events, and am generally all round more fun. Do you feel the same? Is it because we slide into a comfort zone when in a relationship and stop wanting to better ourselves?

Maybe when you find someone with whom you continue to be your best and even better, someone who motivates you to continue to be 100% you, to pursue your passions (not just in his/her rhetoric, but actually helps you, supports you etc.), someone with whom you’re your best self, then you’ve found the right person?

And when you do, it can be amazing to hear them say ‘I’m yours’ and to feel like you’re ‘his’.

The non-post.

Many of you have been rightfully pestering me to write a new post, seeing as the last one was 2 weeks ago! (I usually aim for a post per week). The reason I haven’t written lately is not lack of inspiration but purely that I’ve been too busy. Being too busy is probably the most used, and lamest, excuse around. But seriously, I’ve been too busy. Mainly taking some interesting evening classes, which I hope to write about sometime.

So this post is technically not a real post, but a teaser-post, which aims to: apologize for the delay in getting a new post out there; keep you excited and waiting for the next one; keep you from giving up on me completely; and get you involved in the process.

How? By letting you decide the topic of the next post. Getting your responses oughta kick me into gear.

Before I give you the choices, let me explain a bit about how I write. Sometimes an incident or story inspires a post, and then once it’s written, I come up with the title. Other times a title simply comes to mind and then I write a post as a response to that title. And the post might not even directly answer the title, it might simply begin there and then spin and dance its way to where it wants to go.

So what you will be choosing is not the topic as such, but the title. I came up with four titles today. I think I’ll eventually write posts for all four, but let’s choose the next one.

Once the title is secured, nobody knows where the post might go, but I hope you’ll join me for the ride, and we’ll find out together.

The choices are*:

  1. ‘Edit when sober’
  2. ‘Your grandma’s sex life’
  3. ‘She’s mine’
  4. ‘Indecent proposal’

* You can share your choice by posting a reply to this post, or by writing on the facebook page, or on twitter by mentioning @Blushingsblog (https://twitter.com/blushingsblog

I love you.

Yup, those three little crazy words. The ones that can make you happy, make you freak out, make you run for the hills, or make you feel safe and warm.

The ones that can cause you to make fun of someone for saying I love you after one month, but that you find yourself one day saying to someone after a month.

I always wondered about how the same word ‘love’ can be used for so many different things. How can one single word encompass all the subtleties of such a broad range of emotions… How we feel about coffee, how we feel about our parents, how we feel about Amelie Nothomb’s books, how we feel about the new Titanium song, and how we feel about the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with. One word? For all those things?

Makes me want to invent a hundred different words that would include the nuances of taste buds, lust, craziness, passion, preference…

Saying ‘I love you’ to my dog is easy. In romantic interactions, it’s complicated. Timing and even form plays in- isn’t it funny how saying or writing ‘love you’ or ‘love ya’ or ‘luv u’ is so much easier than ‘I love you’?

And it’s different in different languages too. For me saying ‘je t’aime’ is a lot lighter than ‘I love you’. I’ve been wondering why and I think it’s because the words for ‘like’ and ‘love’ are the same in French.

And as in English, the more letters you remove the lighter it becomes. ‘J’t’aime’, ‘je t’m’, and even ‘jtm’ :-)

I once heard that Spanish is the most honest language when it comes to love because ‘love’ is the same as ‘want’. ‘Te quiero’.  And maybe love is just that. Wanting something or someone.

The three words are intricate because the emotions they attempt to reflect are intricate. I wonder about them and question them because I also wonder about and question love.

I’m the girl who always made fun of the ‘invention’ of romantic love’, citing articles that proved its foundation in chemistry, mythology, biology and the urge to reproduce, media brainwashing and romantic-comedy ‘gavage’ (don’t know what the word is in English, but it is what they do to poor geese to make fois gras). And saying that if we look back some years or look far enough away from our little so-called globalized bubble with an anthropological lens, we’d see that romantic love is very much time- and culture-based.

And evolutionary studies have shown bizarre facts about attraction that are kind of sad to think about, including how men are attracted to women of a certain hip-to-waist ratio and symmetrical faces, all in the unconscious name of ensuring healthy offspring and strong DNA. In case you’re wondering, women were shown to partially base their attraction on a man’s height and income. Income because it represents the man’s ability to take care of his woman. In the stone age it would have been represented by a man’s ability to kill an animal with a club and drag it back home (that is, cave).

Scientists have even come up with mathematical formulas of facial beauty and created a computer software that can beautify people in pictures (have a look at whether you prefer the before or after pictures).

In the brain, being in love is akin to being crazy, quite literally (read more), and I used to tell my friends: those butterflies you’re feeling are chemicals designed to make you stay with a person long enough to get your ‘progeniture’ past infancy (according to the science, a maximum of 18 months to 2 years), thereafter to be replaced by either a boredom-induced breakup or attachment/habit/dependency.

Add to all this the fact that our views of what is beautiful and what is desirable are programed by how and where we grew up, it really gives the lie to all our conceptions of freely ‘choosing’ who we love.  And don’t get me started on men looking for their mothers and all that. At the height of my meditation-Buddhist-retreats phase, I even considered celibacy. ‘None of that syrupy fake opium love illusion for me thank you very much’ I thought. ‘I want to view the real meaning of life and tackle truth head on’.

But as I’ve grown older the truth-truth is that I have realized what love can be. Beyond any cynicism. And I don’t care what any of the studies show. You don’t fall in love with someone just because of hormones. You fall in love with them because you love all those little crazy things about them. Their smile, their ears, the way they make you laugh.

And I want to be in love. I want the butterflies even if they are chemicals.

Sometimes, after falling in love, if you’re lucky, you get to experience true love: The difficult process of truthfully knowing someone, with every single one of their flaws and the things that drive you up the wall, and staying through painful conversations and still ‘loving’ the person even when you hate them. It’s not easy, but it’s beautiful. And then, if you’re really really really lucky, you get to fall in love with them again and again.

So love. That word, that feeling. So what if it’s the same word for so many different things? Even Juliet said: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. So the name of love might not matter, and maybe its combined complexity and simplicity is its charm… Because in the end, isn’t the whole point that whatever it is alluding to is beyond words and names?

* Aside from all the linked articles, some interesting books on the science behind attraction and love are The Evolution Of Desire, by David Buss, and Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience? by William Jankowiak.

Unwrap me.

I’m not big on gifts. I am grateful and happy that we no longer do gifts at Christmas in my family. It’s been about 13 years and what a relief. No more stressful rushing in December to buy useless things that the others might not even like. Anytime of year we see something we think the other might like we just buy it and give it, whenever. It has made Christmas much more relaxing, warm, and fun.

At the same time, sometimes I love searching for, or finding, the perfect gift for a friend. And I love making cards or gifts when I (rarely) have the time or energy. And I love wrapping gifts. I love how they look and I love unwrapping them.

The best gifts I’ve gotten from my friends are ‘experiences’- afternoons or days they had planned out for me. Picking me up in the morning and taking me for a haircut or brunch, a city walk or a museum tour. This year for my birthday, two close girlfriends sent me a poster a few days before my birthday. It had a picture of me with balloons and said: Be at … at 10am. Bring hiking boots, an umbrella, sexy evening wear and pyjamas. I had no idea what any of the plans were but it was so lovely not to have to think, so lovely to be surprised. And of course we had a magical day.

What about gifts from boyfriends and girlfriends? Tough one. I have a hard time picking gifts for a boyfriend. Beyond making something cute, or planning a romantic getaway, I’m often stomped. If the person has expressed something they love, then I love secretly making a mental note and getting them something related. Such as a trip to attend a concert of a band they like. Or going to an antique car show if that’s what they like. I can also pick out a beautiful cashmere sweater or scarf. But what else? It stresses me out so sometimes I’d love it if we just skipped on the gifts.

As long as we make the occasion special. If a guy plans a wonderful evening or cooks a beautiful meal for me on my birthday, then I don’t need anything that comes in a box.

And I think it’s often even harder for men to pick out gifts for girls. So I don’t blame them when they get it wrong. Some of my friends got pretty awful or hilarious gifts from their boyfriends this year.

My Hungarian friend’s husband got her hiking boots. She looked at him trying to hide her utter disappointment. You have to know she doesn’t like nature, tents or anything like that. And how unromantic and unsexy are hiking boots as a gift? But then she found a note inside one of the shoes describing a trip to Italy. That was the real gift, and the boots were just for a one-day hike they’d take there. Italy = much better than boots and the surprise made it even better.

Lara got a blender from her boyfriend. Even if you’ve been married 15 years I’m not sure you want a blender. But when a boyfriend gets you one… well, no comment.

Tech gifts are typical of guys by the way. My ex always got me things like cameras, external hard drives or ipods. And it’s ok, because I still think of him anytime I use any of my gadgets.

In my other ‘home country’, they do wish-lists. You write a list every Christmas and birthday with all the things you want and everyone chooses whatever fits their budget or their relationship with you. Definitely makes things easier. Not sure how I feel about it though. Since living there, I write wish lists every Christmas and birthday, but I’ve never shared my wish-lists with anyone. Instead I just wish for the items and send people telepathic messages about them in my head. But the thing is, you have to not cling to the list you have in your head- oftentimes someone will completely surprise you and give you a gift that you didn’t even know you wanted, and that’s so much better than anything you could have put on your list.

Going back to boyfriends, what gifts do we really want? Anything that shows he’s been listening or has taken time to think. Price means nothing and there is not even any need to purchase anything.  I have two things in mind right now that I’d like to receive. One is an object and one is a document. Let’s see :-)

I’ll end with a nice gift my best male friend got his girlfriend. They’d only been together a month (now going on 3 years) but were madly in love. For the 7 days leading up to Christmas he got her a gift everyday. Her favorite chocolates,  CDs, DVDs, a book, even an item of lingerie (in a fun way). On Christmas eve he gave her a guitar. She’d been dreaming of one. She was so surprised she didn’t know what to say. Again, it’s not about the value of the guitar, but more the fact that he’d been listening. And had saved up and deprived himself of some things to be able to get it for her.

So what do gifts really represent? And why is there so much emotional energy attached to them? Do our parents create this obsession when they go overboard with presents when we are children? Do we just like seeing something and opening it… feeling that we are opening another view into the other person and our relationship… wondering if they really know us at all?

Deal Breakers.

There are certain things that put me off immediately in a guy, and that guarantee that I will certainly not get involved with him. My deal breakers. It is a fluid list, and sometimes I’m not consciously aware of a certain deal breaker that I have. The main ones that come to mind as I write this are: Racism, homophobia, and violence (including or especially towards animals).

I had a discussion with some people at a brunch recently, and we posed the question about whether open-mindedness should include being open-minded towards closed-minded people. I mean, should we accept people’s views no matter how offensive we might find them? I don’t know, but I know I can’t. I get mad and sometimes so frustrated that I turn red (not the good type of blushing) and stop knowing how to express myself. Anyway, during that conversation, my friend’s husband B (mentioned in the insomnia post) made a good point. He said that the idea is to try to make an effort to at least listen and try to understand the other’s point of view and the reasons behind it. I told him about this quote we learned in high school: “Je ne suis pas d’accord avec ce que vous dites, mais je me batterait toute ma vie pour que vous ayez le droit de l’exprimer”*, or something along those lines, by Voltaire I think, which I always found noble. And difficult.

I mean obviously these deal breakers I’m talking about don’t just apply to romantic relationships. I frequently have very animated fights in my Spanish class, using a mix of very loud Arabic and Spanish, with one of my classmates. Yes, I have a bit of a temper in some situations. I’m happy and positive but can get mad fast and sometimes stupidly. Just today I went to a gadget shop looking for a ‘Get well soon’ card, and they said they had packed away all cards not Christmas-related during the month of December. I snapped. “Are you serious? You think no one gets sick or has a birthday during the holidays??” And stormed out. But I’m not really mean; I don’t swear, and I usually forget all about it a few minutes later. And in some situations, I’m extremely patient.. And I’m trying to work on my temper- it’s hard to be in love with humanity if you’re yelling at them all the time.

Anyway back to this classmate of mine. He throws slightly racist remarks around, and once said he supports men’s right to ‘physically discipline’ their wives. Everyone in class is always trying to calm me down, trying to get me not to leave when they see I’m already packing my stuff and muttering. The funny thing is, I think he’s actually faking it. He’s a nice guy, and last week one of my classmates told me that when I’d been absent they’d had a discussion about gay marriage and he’d been the most open-minded one in class, and that the teacher had said to him: “You know J, I’m sure you would have expressed the opposite view if … (me) had been here”. Yep, he apparently knows exactly how to push my buttons, enjoys doing it, and is amused by how easy it is to get me worked up. Well, I guess it makes class entertaining. And maybe my temper is actually just passion; My dad always used to say: “I’m not raising my voice, I’m just passionate!”.

Last week I wrote about great dates. I’ll tell you the story of a horrible date my friend D had a month back, which will illustrate the deal breaker thing. This is a seriously horrible date and a seriously offensive guy.  I’m hesitant to even type it up, weirded out by reproducing this person’s words, and hesitant to throw this out into the universe… feels like putting oil on the flame, especially since I believe that one must not ‘fight’ against the bad stuff, but pursue the good stuff, like violence breeds violence, so you should pursue peace, not ‘fight’ violence. Don’t know if that makes any sense, and yeah, I guess I’m a hippie in that way. And proud!

But here goes. Tribute to D who had to sit through this guy’s tirade.

So. D gets introduced to this guy at a party and he asks her out for a movie. They meet and sit for a coffee before the movie and start ‘getting to know each other’, and here is the charming story he decides to open with.

“I was travelling through Africa last year, and this one night we were sleeping in a hostel-type place on the floor in sleeping bags, and I get woken up by something nice”. D looks at him, not really getting it, waiting for the explanation, and he says (and this is a direct quote), with that smug upward nod guys do, that’s kind of like a wink, when they’re proud and showing off: “seems like you didn’t get. It was a BLOWJOB” Is that really a word you wanna use or what you think a girl wants to talk about in the first five minutes of a first date? As if that wasn’t enough, he continues “I looked down, and saw a black face”… and… now comes the worst part… “I kicked her away and broke her jaw”. Even if he made it up, it’s nearly just as bad.

This person managed, on a first date, in nearly a single sentence, to convey that he is vulgar, racist, and violent. And rude. And insensitive. Needless to say, she didn’t continue the date but rather made an excuse to leave. I could barely believe the story was true. DEFINITELY a deal breaker. One with very bright blinking red lights. More like a run-for-your-life-er.

To end on a more positive note, I also have lighter deal-breakers, which aren’t really deal-breakers because they can be worked on. These include smoking, wearing too-short trousers, and wearing sports socks with suits. I think that in contrast with the above horror, I can definitely give a nice guy who has these little bad habits or bad taste, a chance.

*  I don’t agree with what you say, but I would fight my whole life for you to have the right to say it.

Maybe you need a chest.

So I’m sitting up late, normally the case lately. At my computer, it’s 3:23am. I have trouble sleeping. Not just today. Many days. Someone yesterday said: “Oh that’s so lucky, I wish I only needed that little sleep”. I wailed: “But I don’t! I need lots of sleep! I’m perpetually tired and sleep-deprived!”

Though I’ve had sleep problems since I was a teen, there have been phases in my life where I slept just fine thank you very much. There was even a time in the not-so-distant past when I would go to bed as early as 10, be fast asleep by 11, and still suffer to get up at 7. In those days, the waking up part was the toughie. Snooze was the name of the game. I can play that game for hours. I dreamed up strange devices that would force me out of bed, some way to keep me from ignoring the annoying alarm and the rational ‘get up’ thoughts. The inventions in my head included some foot-censor pads in the shower that would ring until your feet actually got on them. Someone should make that. I should make it. Can’t be bothered. Too tired. Reminds me of the Ingrid Michaelson song “… I want to change the world, instead I sleep” (http://www.myspace.com/ingridmichaelson).

I also was so impressed when I read about Clocky, that alarm clock that actually jumps off your nightstand, runs away from you, and hides under your bed. Invented by a beautiful grad student at MIT. Who often overslept of course. (http://www.clocky.net/story/)

In the absence of my own theoretical shower foot pad invention (yes we need a better name) and of Clocky, I resorted to hiding my alarm in a box, in an attic height closet, so I’d have to get out of bed, get a chair, stand on said chair, open said closet, open said box, get the clock out and turn the alarm off. Sounds like an effective antidote for snoozing doesn’t it? No. I’d just go straight back into my warm and beautiful bed.

Maybe we should install cold-water sprinklers in our bedrooms to wake us up. No one wants to get back into a cold and wet bed. Ew. But the thought is too nightmarish and concentration camp-like, I’d rather suffer the wakeup normally.

Anyway at some point it changed into not being able to fall asleep and not being able to stay asleep. Getting out of bed in the morning is still hard, but nothing compared to the anguish that I know many of you have felt: Lying in the dark in your bed, tired, desperate to sleep. Too tired to even get up and do something constructive. You feel the hours passing and feel how it’s getting closer and closer to morning, and then you see the morning light and you finally just give in to the risibility of the moment. You open your eyes and see people signing into facebook who you know have just woken up for work.

So I researched. I decided to find out about everything sleep-related. I asked a therapist. I asked a psychiatrist. I asked a regular MD. I went to a specialized sleep clinic in a hospital where you spend the night and try to sleep and they stick electrodes on you and watch you through a glass wall. Kinda like being abducted by aliens conducting experiments. They all said sleeplessness would only be in phases, and I’d sleep fine in other phases. At my most desperate point, when I my eyes were closing at work and I felt like I was speaking in slow motion, I asked my friend in New York who also has trouble sleeping what she does when she’s tired at work, and she said she hides in the bathroom and tries to sleep for 15 minutes. I tried so many natural sleep aids that I turned into a Valeriana plant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerian_(herb)), and when that didn’t work, I tried (with my physician) three different types of sleep medication (aside from ‘panadol night’- candy) and none worked, and all are bad for you.

And I asked friends and family. And they had loads of advice: Don’t eat late. Exercise (I do). Read boring books. Don’t have a tv in your room (by the way I’d die before I ever got a tv in my bedroom. A bedroom is for sleep, sex, and maybe pets and/or kids jumping up on lazy Sunday mornings). Drink chamomile and yanssoun. Do breathing exercises (will always do). Acupuncture (those needles in my forehead didn’t help me relax). Don’t drink coffee in the afternoon (I’m so afraid of coffee now that the latest I’d ever have one is 9am). Don’t be worried/anxious  (never been more relaxed and worry-free in my life). Keep your bedroom a cool temperature (it always is and that’s the way I like it anyway). Take a cold shower before bed. Take a hot shower before bed. (one alludes to the science that the body needs to drop a degree in temperature in order to sleep, the other alludes to the simple relaxation of a hot bath). Both don’t do sh*t for me. Shower = wide-awake for me. Put lavender essence on your pillow (didn’t help but smells so lovely- thanks Dad).

Tonight as I was leaving a party, the host, B, said: Should I ask you to missed call me when you get home? (a safety precaution we use in Lebanon to make sure people get home safe, not sure it is used elsewhere or that it even has any function, but I like it). But my poor friend was clearly falling asleep and actually leaning on the wall as he showed us out. His wife said to him: “you’ll be asleep as soon as the door is closed, way before any missed call”. We all laughed and I told him he was blessed with such easy sleep. Proceeded to mention my sleep issues, just briefly, and the 5 girls there all gave me versions of the advice listed above. Finally B said: “maybe you need a chest”. All of us went blank and I was thinking: a chest? Why would I want to sleep on a large box? Then little by little we began to laugh as it dawned on each of us that what he meant was a man’s chest. That maybe what I needed to get a night of peaceful respite was to rest my head on someone’s chest. I don’t know if he’s right, but it was wonderful to hear a new idea for once. The girls then discussed the fact that the chest lean is much more uncomfortable than it looks and is only bearable for a couple of minutes, but that’s beside the point, and sleeping positions can be tackled in another post. It’s now 4:10am and I shall try to sleep.

Great dates.

What’s a sign a date is going great? For me it means I don’t look at my phone once. It means laughing, lots and lots of laughing. Joking with the waiters. Wine glasses. Sharing dessert. Staying much longer than you had planned –  he picked you up at 9 for dinner and at 1am you’re still there, with the waiters now folding their arms staring at you because you’re the only customers left and they want to go home. They give you not-so-subtle hints, by constantly removing more and more items from your table. And even though you’ve worked as a waitress and know how annoying it is when you’re dying to leave and that couple in the corner just lingers on and on talking non-stop, despite all that, you barely notice their hints. A great date is above all, great conversation.

Have you ever had one of those day-time coffee or lunch dates (which is usually what I propose when I don’t really want it to be a date) but that turn out to be so much fun that you decide to go for a walk after, and then coffee in a different place, and then maybe even catch an afternoon movie? The non-date that turns into a date.

Last Saturday I had a lovely non-date with a good friend. Yes, I think you can have lovely kinda romantic ‘dates’ with a friend. We met for ‘coffee’ in the city center. He and I always joke that ‘having a coffee’ is like a concept, it often doesn’t mean coffee (can be a tea, a beer, a juice) but you always refer to it as coffee. In that spirit, we decided when we got there that today ice-cream would be our coffee. Ice-cream in the winter is fun. So I have banana and coffee-flavored ice-cream (does that make it coffee?) and he has a hot chocolate. We talk and talk and talk and laugh so loud  that the other tables turn to stare. They’re just jealous because they’re sitting there in total silence with nothing to say to each other. Is that inevitable when you’ve been with someone a long time? I like to hope not (to be discussed in another post).

Anyway, so after our ice-cream, I’m saying bye and tell him I need to exchange a dress at Zara for a friend. He says yalla, I’ll go with you. I’m meant to just get the money back for my friend, but while we’re there, I ‘bump into’ some pretty shiny shoes. So my male friend and I spend an hour trying on shoes, me doing the trying, and him carrying the boxes and asking for different sizes, and generally feeling out of place but having fun. After the shoes, I say I have to go to the supermarket to buy groceries for a dinner I’m having that night for my Spanish class. Again he says yalla, I’ll go with you. I’m super happy for the company, and he pushes the cart and I walk in front picking out things. The man at the cheese counter thinks we’re a married couple as does the man at the bakery stand. We get into the act and pretend to be complaining about each other. Having a blast even at a supermarket is a sign of a great date.

Another thing is the balance of power. Do you want a guy to decide most things on the date, or do you want to be in control? I think I’m very complicated on this issue. I like a guy to pick the place and make a reservation, because in the rest of my life I’m always organizing things, and checking up on details etc. So it annoys me if I have to plan the specifics of a date. But it’s cute when a guy asks something simple beforehand like: “do you like Indian?” That amount of thinking I can do. On the other hand, I tend to love to mastermind the ordering once we’re there. I love to try different things and I love to share food. I’ll usually leave the wine choice up to him, although inside I’ll be boiling to have a look and a say. It (perhaps wrongly) bothers me if a guy orders very expensive wine on a first date. And I never know what to say about it. I think it’s because if it doesn’t work out I feel guilty about him having spent a fortune on wine. Is that weird?

Ok so those are some of my thoughts on what makes a great date. I wish I knew whether anyone has gotten annoyed when I’ve wanted to decide what to order for both of us, whether it pressured someone to have to make the date plans. I wonder what men look for as signs a date is going ok. So… I’d love to hear from you reading this (male or female): what makes a great date?

Keep making those soap bubbles.

When I was in my more cynical early-twenties (yep, I seem to be getting less cynical rather than more cynical with age), I used to say: Life is the process of progressive disillusionment. I’d look back at the enchantment of childhood when you (or at least I) thought everything was imbued with magic, and everything, absolutely everything was possible- and wonderful, and then I’d look at the number of illusions that had been popped like soap bubbles over the years…

I knew I was still more wonder-filled than many people my age. I worked as a waitress for years even though at the time, in this country, it was considered odd. But for me, it was about floating around the tables, making friends and tips. I loved considering each table a new challenge, a chance to make someone spend a nice evening, or lunch break. It was like a puzzle, attempting to recommend the perfect dish for each person. My dad refused to come to see me at work, thinking that my work would make people think we ‘needed the money’. My friends from back in high school would condescendingly say: “Oh how cute! What are you doing here? That apron is SO cute!” Until today, it’s still one of the best jobs I ever had.

I tried to put whimsy in everything. When I moved to Europe, I organized picnics at the beach in winter, and tea parties with roommates and five types of cheesecake.  I’d get so excited when I’d relate the story of whichever book I happened to be reading, that people would have to move the wine glasses on the table to save them from getting tipped over by my hand gestures.  For parties I made punch decorated with edible flowers and frozen berries. I started book clubs, French clubs (an excuse to get together with other francophones, drink French wine, eat French cheese, and speak French), and food clubs (people of different nationalities meeting once a month taking turns to cook national dishes for each other).

I’d convince people to watch cartoons, and tell them to believe in the good in people. But still, since my teens, life had begun to slowly but surely stop making sense. I had my share of hard times. The world often seemed like such a sad place, and struggling through it too hard. Always too many decisions to take, too many kilometres between you and the people you loved, either here or there. Finally the absurdity got too deep and thick. I couldn’t make sense of things anymore. What was the point, and why did anything matter since everything had an expiry date. I tiptoed and then crashed into scepticism and sarcasm.

I told everyone romantic love was at best a cultural invention and mainly the result of hormones. That everything we did, work, leisure activities, even (gasp!) reading, was a distraction to pass the time until we died.

I saw a documentary about Alvaro Mutis, a Columbian writer who said that the most important part of life was from age 6 or 8 to approximately 11 because it was the only period in which we truly experience anything, before our senses and minds are deadened. With full innocence, we are open and happy and good. He used the phrase ‘volverse adultos’ to describe becoming an adult. There are many words for ‘becoming’ in Spanish, and ‘volverse’ is the one usually used to describe negative changes; you ‘te vuelves’ crazy, for example. He went on to say that when we grow up, we ‘nos volvemos’ stupid, and the fight for life begins, and makes us malicious and bad.

That description felt spot on. Cynicism felt seductive and almost fun, but just like social smoking rarely stays at that, it morphed into anxiety and depression. I’ll leave that for another post, but the weird thing is that falling into the pit of self-loathing and universe-hating made me forever more compassionate and understanding than I ever could have been without the experience. So in a way, it brought back some illusions, and made me fall in love with humanity again. So yes, life will make you grow up. It might make you sadder, but if you’re lucky, you’ll keep the ability to smile the type of smile you feel in your tummy. And Vicky, keep making those soap bubbles ;-)

So why the blog?

I was recently in a play in which each of us had 5 minutes to portray, through any medium, something we wanted to express. Some did a dance, some did a song, some mimed, some did incomprehensible modern abstract performances, and some did hilarious stand-up comedy. I split my minutes into three portions, approximately one-and-a-half-minute scenes, interspersed among the other performances, one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one at end of the show. Typical attention seeker. Actually it was our instructors’ idea to split my scenes in order to make it a ‘fil rouge’ (let’s say ‘theme’ in English) throughout the piece.

In my first bit (also the first scene of the play), I came out as an opera singer wearing a long red dress. My fellow playmates (that word sounds totally wrong doesn’t it) were behind me as an orchestra with invisible instruments. So I come onstage, and salute the beautiful audience whom I imagine to be clapping profusely (there actually were two hundred spectators a night, and so much demand that we had to extend. Twice). The conductor signals the musicians to begin; I sway to the music a little, open my arms and fingers, close my eyes, take a breath, and then… nothing. It takes the conductor a moment to realize I haven’t begun to sing, but when he does he stops the music and looks at me, worried. I give him an apologetic look, then assure him we can go on. I freeze another two times before running off stage.

In my second scene, I come out as a mad artist with a red beret (yup, I took the ‘fil rouge’ thing quite literally), complete with an obsessed servant-fan carrying my easel, palette, and paints. After making him follow me round and round the stage with all the materials while I look for the perfect spot, we get set up. I begin mixing my colors, simply holding out my hand and my servant-fan giving me what I need, much like a nurse assisting a surgeon. After all this prep, I squint my eyes, take position, hold my brush carefully and… do nothing. You get the drill.

Finally, the figurative curtain opens in my final scene (also the last scene of the play) on me in a beautiful bridal dress, carrying a red rose (yup, red again). Behind me are actors dressed in black, and others dressed in white. They represent my thoughts. My real-life indecisive, hesitant, obsessive and tormenting thoughts. The black ones are holding back and the white ones are encouraging me. But neither of the two are really me. So of course I prepare to give my rose to an invisible suitor floating in front of the stage, and…  don’t. Three times. But my liberation does come in the final scene, because I throw the rose, toss my veil, and decide to just not care anymore. To stop thinking so much. To let go. And I reconcile with all the thoughts standing behind me, literally dance with them, and fall backwards into their arms.

I later told my dad and relatives: There, now you’ve seen me in a wedding dress, pressure’s off.

Joking aside, the idea behind my scenes, which were simple and self-explanatory (though several newspaper articles got them all wrong- stating for example, that the singer didn’t want to sing because her orchestra was really lousy), was my real life self-created obstacles. I overthink things, and my inner perfectionist/ critic stops me before I ever dare do anything.

Among other things, I have always wanted to write. I have always written… in my head. If I ever did write something on paper, it would remain in one of my little notebooks in a drawer. If I ever did type something up, my compulsive editor self would destroy it until there was nothing left.

After the play, after dealing with this issue head on, on stage, in front of people, including, by the way, past and current employers, something clicked. I guess it’s obvious, but the singer, painter and bride were dealing with these issues, and I was dealing with mine by the mere fact of being on stage. Getting up there was really scary for me, and I’d wanted to quit so many times… but once I allowed myself… I loved being on stage. And it’s not about the attention. It’s about the feeling of time literally expanding, and nothing else existing. Being on stage, you feel the every sensation of your feet on the ground, you feel your every breath, every pulsation of your heart. And if you take the time to look at the audience… You see a sea of faces and lights… You literally feel the energy of all these people vibrating towards you.

And in an old theater like the one we were in, maybe you even choose to believe you can feel the history of every person who ever acted there, every fiasco, every success, and all the people who ever dressed up and went to see a show there. But most of all, when you’re on stage you feel the silent yet so loud encouragement of your fellow ‘actors’. You help each other dress between scenes, bring out each other’s props in the dark, always trying to do everything perfectly to make them comfortable and to not create any glitch in their scene. They know every movement and word of your scenes, and they mime and mouth them backstage while you’re performing, and you do the same when they’re onstage. You feel happy when they do well, and feel their frustration when they forget a word.

So the play made me feel that anything was possible, and that there was nothing to be afraid of. Once you’ve made yourself utterly vulnerable and put your issues in front of people to judge (and they did), you realize that your arms won’t fall off- as my old roommate used to say.

A week after the play ended, I went for coffee with a friend (who was then only an acquaintance), who blogs at Beirut Rhapsodies. We spoke about writing, and about regaining our wings after they are clipped by well-meaning critical dads, boyfriends, teachers… She told me: Why don’t you write a post for my blog? So I did. I wrote it really fast, in about 7 minutes, and for once in my life, did not allow myself to proofread or edit. I sent it to her, she published it on her blog, and that was it. The big deal was not having readers or positive comments (though that was lovely). The big deal was that I wrote. And showed it to someone. I decided to start this blog in order to make sure I kept writing. The post I wrote for her is the first post on this blog, ‘At least the illusion of it’.

Ayo, technology…

It used to be that you’d meet a guy, say through friends, he’d like you, ask for your number, and then you’d wait. He’d hopefully call, take you to dinner, then maybe a movie, then dinner again, and you’d smoothly transition into dating, getting to know each other little by little. Kissing and sex would happen somewhere in there too. Some of the fun parts would be discovering common interests, friends, and past experiences.

Now things are changing. And I don’t mean like: Oh guys are assholes now, or anything like that. Not true. Guys are as lovely and as awful as they always were, thank God. But technology is changing the initial phase of dating. You meet a guy, you like each other, you simultaneously add each other on facebook, bbm, what’s app, google talk, skype, msn (does anyone still use msn?!), email, and maybe even follow each on twitter. So before you even have an actual proper date, you’ve seen a hundred pictures of him and know who all his friends are. It’s WEIRD. You’ve seen his bad hair days, you’ve seen him at the beach, you know his taste in music, movies, his date of birth, his hobbies, where he studied, where he works… You get the picture. These are the things that are supposed to populate all those first candle-lit conversations and walks. You might even find pictures of his ex-girlfriends on his profile, which you shouldn’t be seeing in the first week of knowing him- if ever.

No more waiting for an sms or a call. ‘Will he call?’ Nope. Now he can just say ‘hey’ on any of your chat outlets, at any hour. He doesn’t need to have anything to say, or even try to make plans to see you. ‘Hey’. So maybe you date, but you likely have never heard his voice on the phone, and never gotten an sms from him. ‘What’s the difference between an IM and an sms?’ you ask. Big difference. In an sms, he actually has to think of what to write. And sometimes the sms’s are sweet and you save them and re-read them (yes we are girls). An sms actually has to be coherent, with an end and a beginning (at least in the beginning- later in a relationship an sms can simply say ‘tree’, make perfect sense, and give you a warm fuzzy feeling). Phone calls also require an effort at logic. Whereas a chat conversation has no beginning (except for the aforementioned ‘hey’) and no end. It just goes on and on, over days and weeks, with no real greetings or goodbyes, just a word inserted here and there. It take guts to call a girl, to figure out what to say or what to write in an sms… Most of that is gone.

Instead you get to see that he’s online (a green dot on gchat or facebook) and wonder why he isn’t talking to you. Bbm is even worse. You can’t sign out.

You also somehow know each other too much thanks to all this tech, without actually knowing each other at all. You feel this false familiarity and closeness because you’ve bbm’ed all day and stalked each other’s facebook profiles, and just ‘get’ each other sooo much. But then you see each other and you think; is that what he looks like? See, fb pictures aren’t the real thing, and regardless whether they’re better or worse than real life, they don’t have anything to do with the breathing, flesh and blood being that’s suddenly in front of you. You liked his style on facebook, but do you like the feel and smell of his skin?

It feels awkward when you’re face to face with someone whom you’ve previously been chatting with. On your devices you both had so much to say and both felt so funny, witty and daring, with sexy IM flirting, saying racy things you probably wouldn’t dare say in person. And suddenly he’s there, it’s clumsy, no one has anything to say, and it feels strange when your arm accidentally touches his.

Ayo, I’m tired of using technologyyy, why don’t ya sit down on top of me?
(50 Cent and Justin Timberlake)

Don’t tell me I’m beautiful.


Well the title of this post might be slightly misleading. I think all of us girls like to feel, and be told, that we’re beautiful. Sometimes it feels sincere, and takes you aback, sometimes you know he’s just peddling a line he knows girls like to hear. When your gay friend tells you you’re beautiful, you know he means it.

But we don’t just wanna be perceived as beautiful. And a guy telling you you’re beautiful is not an indicator that he has actually paid attention or noticed any of the things that make you you. ‘You’re beautiful’ is like a joker card: use wherever whenever with whomever.

When someone tells you that your facial expressions are like cartoons, you know he’s looking. Or when someone says: ‘You’re about as quirky as they come- hold on to that’, you know he’s noticed your idiosyncrasies. My ex used to tell me that the way I described things made them ‘3D’. The men who’ve told me these things will know who they are, and will know their compliments rocked. And my favorite is for a guy to tell me, or make me feel, that I’m funny.

We want men to see us, beyond our pretty faces, no matter how beautiful these might be, hehe.

I got an email recently from a male friend, an email that was the best compliment I ever received. This is a guy who sees me, utterly and completely. I will share some of the email here, with his consent, translated from french. The fact that he shared it with me at all, expecting nothing in return, is a gift. He wrote about me in the third person:

… She’s so hesitant about everything that it drives me crazy, she walks around with a big exclamation mark on top of her head, she parks in the middle of the road to save a dog, gets drunk after a single glass of wine, thinks scars are sexy, and could win a world championship of sms-typing speed. A girl whose favorite movie is ‘As good as it gets’, who is passionate about books but doesn’t read as many, who doesn’t like shopping, who has a smile… A smile where her eyes shine too, a smile that makes me happy… Yesterday I even clumsily poured her a glass of water, just to see her smile…

So guys, next time you want to pay a girl a compliment, LOOK at her first, and be a bit creative.

At least the illusion of it.

For some reason, I’m incapable of kissing on the first date. Usually not on the second or third either. And I definitely can’t kiss someone I just met at a bar. I actually find this to be a rather boring feature about myself. And it’s not because I want to be a ‘good’ girl. It’s not because I want to play hard to get, or appear a certain way. I couldn’t care less about those things.

The thing is, I like a kiss to feel a certain way. This might make me a romantic, or a kid, or warrant a: ‘you’re such a girl!’. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I want to be in a ‘relationship’ before I kiss someone, nor is it that I want us to be hopelessly in love. It’s just that I want that feeling. I want my heart to pound even though I know it’s only hormones and chemicals. I want to loose my breath and feel weak in the knees just for a quick moment, even though if we were to get into a discussion you’d find that I probably don’t believe in love. I want even the hand-holding to feel special, discovering each other’s fingers, skin, and how they fit. And you can infer that all these things apply to sex as well.

Let’s think about that first kiss for a moment. Yeah you never get the first kiss back, bla bla bla. Scratch all that.  You can have plenty of amazing kisses with the same person, even for years and years. But back to the kissing a new date or stranger. If you’re hanging out with people you just met and one of them is drinking a bottle of water and you’re thirsty, would you just drink out of theirs? I’m not germaphobe or anything, but I prefer to know people a bit before I share bodily secretions with them. With my close friends, we share water bottles all the time. So I’m not gonna just suck face with some guy I just met who has smoky breath and sweaty palms (no offense to anyone). I have to feel I know the guy at least a bit, have a modicum of respect for him, and find him reasonably intelligent and interesting.

So it’s not love I need, but it is an illusion of something that looks a bit like a cousin of love. When I kiss someone, I want to feel we are both really enjoying it and kinda forgetting everything around us. When we stop kissing, I like to feel a bit surprised that there are still people around us, a bit like when you walk out of an early movie screening and are surprised it’s still daylight. Most of all, I just can’t look langouresement (no word in English good enough for this) into someone’s eyes and see nothing there.