Posted in bloggers, Books, Feminism, relationships, Reviews, women

Book Review: Anatomy of A Scandal – Sarah Vaughan

Now here’s a blinding flash of the obvious: sex, lies and scandals sell.

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Anatomy of a Scandal is the latest in a string of novels that tackle the subject matter of marriage and infidelity, and how passion can make anyone do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Honestly, I have long since removed my rose-colored glasses. I no longer see the world through the filters of my childhood Disney influences. I am grown-up and realistic enough to accept that there’s no such thing as perfect relationships.

However.

I am increasingly frustrated by the way marriage is portrayed in the number of books I’ve read recently. I mean, is nothing sacred anymore? When did fidelity become the exception rather than the rule? When did society learn to turn the other cheek when a husband is caught cheating on his wife or vice versa? When did we become so blasé about something that – to me- is so fundamentally wrong?

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Okay, now that I’ve had my little rant, let me try to actually get a coherent review of this book out.

Anatomy of A Scandal is actually a courtroom drama more than anything else. A charming and influential MP is accused of rape by a woman with whom he’s been having an affair with for several months. This makes the case trickier because the issue of consent is blurred by the fact that they’ve had consensual sex several times prior to the incident in question (a quickie at the elevator right at the heart of the Houses of Parliament, HONESTLY).

This book really gets down to the nitty-gritty. For all that I hate the fact that this is another book about a cheating cretin, I really do admire it for the awareness it brings to the public about the kind of rape where consent is a grey area rather than a clear-cut case of “she didn’t want it”.

According to this book, the prosecutor has to make the jury believe that at the point of penetration, the accused was fully aware that they victim did not consent to the act. So really, she could have been enjoying the foreplay but if she didn’t want to go all the way and yet the man still insisted on scoring a home run, its still rape. I never knew that.

This book also brings to light the reason why so many victims do not come forward about their experiences. I mean, I don’t mean to generalise, but there is so much burden placed on the victim to provide proof of rape. And when you do come forward, your character and history are scrutinised, criticised and judged by everyone involved; your business becomes everybody’s business.

If you’re somehow the kind of woman who likes to look good, dress sexy or flirt every now and then, people seem to think you deserved what happened to you. As if one thing led to the other. As if there was no distinction between being a flirt and unsolicited sex. In this case, the odds against the victim are stacked even higher because she was “the other woman”.

It’s book likes these that make me thankful that the world is now paying more attention to things like sexual harassment in the workplace and that victims of assault have found their voice through movement like Time’s Up and Me Too. Where there once was just ripples in the ocean, feminism is now making waves. And thank God for that because its about damn time that abusers (and I’m not saying that they are exclusively of the male variety) finally answer for their sins.

Anyway, this book isn’t really a crime novel, nor is it the kind of book you pick up if you want to enjoy a fast-paced and thrilling plot. The story unfolds gradually, and in a non-linear fashion through the use of flashbacks. There were very few plot twists and none that you wouldn’t see coming.

It’s told from several point of views, one of which is the wife of the accused, which is why I went on the whole cheating rant because I just felt so sorry for her. I mean, you work hard to maintain a marriage, you compromise in order to make a partnership work and you think things are going along swimmingly AND THEN you’re completely blindsided not only by the discovery of an affair but by a far greater and more public scandal. Its enough to turn someone off the whole institution of marriage altogether.

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I think I’m going to read a romance novel next just to remind myself that the world is still a romantic place and that as long as the people in it continue to believe in true love, hope still springs eternal. Sappy, I know, but I need to take this belief with me when I go to sleep at night.

Because if love no longer exists, and all we’re left with are the lies and the scandal and the constant infidelity, what is the point of waking up in the morning? Scary thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Books, Feminism, Reviews, Women's literature

Book Review: The Natural Way of Things – Charlotte Wood

Last year, Hollywood was rocked by a continous stream of scandals that saw well-known actors and producers accused of everything from harassment to molestation and even outright rape.

Suddenly women in show business were either speaking up about their own experience at the hands of these predators-masquearing-as-gentlemen or calling out their male counterparts whenever they felt like women weren’t being given fair and equal treatment.

All of a sudden there were a lot of hashtag “me too’s” going around all social media platforms, finally culminating in Oprah Winfrey’s powerful and rousing speech during this year’s Golden Globe ceremony.

I always think of myself as a baby feminist. Certainly I appreciate all the comforts of being a woman in the progressive 21st century; I don’t think I could have borne being a Stepford Wife wannabe. I do not have it in me to sit at home, do household chores and have dinner waiting for my husband when he comes home from doing a full day’s work. I think we’ve already established that I do not subscribe to the school of thought that your worth as a woman is somehow diminished because you’re neither a wife or a mother. I firmly believe in ever woman’s right to make her own choices and that being an attractive woman doesn’t give any man the right to assume she welcomes unwanted attentions. 

So yeah, in that sense, I am all for feminism. So when I saw this book by Charlotte Wood on the counter of my local Waterstones with a glowing review saying that this book was the height of feminist literature (high praise!), I could not help but be intrigued. The blurb seemed eerily similar to The Handmaid’s Tale.

Ten women suddenly find themselves imprisoned in the middle of nowhere with no phones, no modern conveniences and no clue why or how they got there; the guards have shaved their heads, have had them changed into the most unbecoming and uncomfortable clothes and basically have them living in the worst conditions possible.

All the while they are being subjected to hard, manual labour and constant abuse from the guards and the one “nurse”. They eventually figured out that all of them have been involved in some kind of sex scandal with a powerful man and that that was probably the reason why they’ve been taken from their homes and family into, well, hell on earth really.

I didn’t realise when I picked this up that this had been written by an Australian author and that it was set in Australia. There were a lot of words, slangs and descriptions of wildlife that I’ve had to ask some of my Aussie friends to translate just to make sure I did not miss any context. But apart from that minor hitch in my reading, I went into this with full speed ahead because I was just so darned intrigued.

There’s a reason why we have a lot of books with this subject matter: simply put, sex and infidelity sells. Since the beginning of time, people have loved to read about lurid scandals and the consequences that befall those who dare to give in to their sexual desires, propriety be damned. Initially I was a little confused as to how this is a feminist novel because I really felt like there was a whole lot of slut-shaming going on. Those women were being judged simply because they made the mistake of sleeping with men who were either married, extremely powerful or in the case of one girl, a pillar of the Catholic church.

I also had to sort out my own feelings about these women because I always find it hard to relate to women who have been involved in any form of cheating. I fervently believe that there is a special place in hell for women who don’t respect their fellow women enough to not steal their man. However, I’ve always hesitated to unequivocally condemn those women because I am of the opinion that you never really know how you’re going to act in any situation until you’ve faced it yourself. So no one can really say for sure that they won’t be tempted to participate in infidelity, especially if love and lust are involved. I’d like to think I’d be able to resist temptation but we all know love (or the illusion of it anyway) can make people do stupid things.

So I guess the highest praise that I can give this novel is that it will raise questions and generate discussions; it may confuse the hell out of you while reading it but goodness knows that you it will get some kind of reaction out of you. Its hard not to be affected by these women’s experiences and even harder not to sympathise with them despite what you know about their past. You might even find yourself rooting for them as they struggle to survive and escape their imprisonment. In the end, its really not about who they’ve slept with or the journey they’ve taken to get where they are; its about the journey that they will take to get to a better place.

I particularly like the idea of exploring how human beings will react and respond to being placed in extreme situations. Its almost Darwinian really; only the fittest can and will survive. And as seasons changed and food rations became shorter and shorter, some people emerged as leaders, others simply fell apart whereas other people did things they otherwise wouldn’t have done – all in the name of survival. In a way, its ironic; we become the animals that scientific theory says we originated from when circumstances require us to survive. What does that say about us?

While I did not like the ending and I didn’t think it made any particular sense (it left so many questions unanswered!) I did like the overall theme of the book. I think it was worth my time to read it; it was thought-provoking, atmospheric and hey, I was on holiday and had nothing better to do with my time.

Overall: 3 put of 5 stars.

This book is getting a lot of word of mouth recommendations so let me know what you guys think if you ever decide to read it. Check it out on Amazon by clicking the image below!

Cheers, bookworms! xx

Posted in dating, Feminism, Filipino, relationships, Self-Discovery

Where’s Your Boyfriend?

Every time I come for a visit to the Philippines – and especially as I reach that age where everyone you know is either a wife or a mother – there’s just that little bit of anxiety and a touch of resentment mixed in with the all the excitement.

You see, I come from a culture where its more or less expected, nay, required for a woman to be either in a serious relationship if not married by the age of 25. For a long long time I bought into the whole Stepford wife illusion of white picket fences, loving husband and 2.5 babies. That to me was THE goal.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, moving to London saved my life.

The Giving Tree

I once volunteered to help less fortunate children to read and one of the books we read was The Giving Tree. I must have been 27 at the time and I remember trying my best to keep it together and to keep my emotions in check so that I wouldn’t blubber like a nutter in front of all those kids who had so much more to worry about than my love life.

I was in a very self-destructive, unhealthy and pathetically one-sided relationship in college that gave new meaning to the word friend zone. I lost myself completely in my misguided quest to make another person love me. I was stupid enough to believe, just like that bloody giving tree, that if you give of yourself enough that other person will love you back.

It took me about 8 years to realise that love doesn’t work that way. You shouldn’t have to work so hard to make someone else love you. You don’t need to lose yourself in a relationship. Even as you become partners in all things, its still healthy to retain that sense of individuality, and the sense of who you are as a person outside of the relationship. In short, to be able to truly give yourself to someone, you have to be whole, and you have to know and love yourself first.

This was not an easy lesson for me to learn and in a way, I’m probably still in the process of learning it. Its hard for me not to be a giver (I probably always will be) and it was so hard for me to gain back my self-esteem and my self-respect.

That’s one of the main reasons why I’ve remained single for a long long time. I date, sure, but at the back of my mind I know that my head wasn’t in the right place for me to even think about starting anything serious. I had so much to discover about myself, so much lost time to make up for, so many things that I still need to do and a boyfriend would just get in the way.

I’ve probably been a bit self-absorbed for the last 6 years or so – about the length of time that I’ve lived and worked in London. It was all about what I want to do, what I need to learn, where I need to go. I enjoyed the freedom of having no one to think about apart from myself. If I make mistakes no one else needs to suffer from it.

And to be honest that was probably a good thing. My experimental forays into trying things that are outside my comfort zone have gained me new skills, new friends and new experiences that cannot be bought by any kind of money. I have a job I love even as it often gives me stress, a side job that pays me to do one of the things I enjoy most, a blog that keeps me sane, a comfortable flat, and the kind of life that if I really think about it, brings me happiness. I’m one application (and 2 thousand pounds) away from being British. I’m so damn proud of all my achievements and I’ve never had any reason to doubt myself and my life choices. Until I come home to the Philippines of course.

I’m Alone…But Not Lonely

Look, I date okay. Not that I need to explain myself to anyone, but I do in fact go on several dates a year. The quality of those dates are sometimes suspect and none of them have panned out yet, but I’ve yet to lose hope that I’ll meet that someone and I’ll just know it was worth waiting and holding out for something more meaningful than a one-night stand.

I know, I know, I turned 30 and I’m losing fertile eggs as we speak. But seriously, the notion that being a wife or a mother is the measure of how successful a woman is is really outdated. I came home this year and people start to look at me funny because I don’t have a man by my side or an infant in my arms. No one wants to hear about every thing else I’ve done or what I have achieved, they just want to look at my finger to see if anyone’s put a ring on it.

I admit, I had my moment of panic when I turned 30. For maybe a day. And then I gave myself a kick in the arse and reminded myself that first of all, its not a race to the finish and second of all, 30 isn’t exactly ancient. I’ve had dates that never would have taken me as seriously at 27 as they do now. My life isn’t over, its not quite time for me to think about adopting cats yet.

The Measure of Success

It drives me mad to think that there are people who think I’m somehow less just because I’m “still” single. I have all the admiration in the world for mothers and for women who have chosen to start a family even at the expense of having a career – I think those women should be celebrated (sainted, really). But equally, credit should be given to those women who chose the other fork in the road and have fought to build a career despite the challenges and yes, despite being alone for most of it.

And its not like motherhood is not part of the plan. I, for one, would like to see my genes propagated (is that the right word?), but I’m not sitting around twiddling my thumbs while waiting for the future Mr. Angela. Its part of my bigger plan, its not my only plan. So yes, I do want to get married eventually and this is the first time that I can honestly say I’m ready for it (cue Taylor Swift music) so the answer to that question is a “not yet” rather than a hard “no”.

I hate having to defend my life choices to other people, I promised myself that I would rise above the weight of society’s expectations (I absolutely knew this was coming). It sickens me to think that I can still be affected by other people’s small minds and narrow world-views. I sometimes want to scream in frustration that there is a world out there bigger than the very small circle in which your lives revolve, but I don’t want to seem like I’m belittling anyone’s life or the choices they have made. I just wish they’d exercise the same caution when they choose to judge mine.

Where’s Your Boyfriend?

I don’t know. I don’t know where my boyfriend is. Twice in the past 6 years I thought I’ve found him but it turned out I haven’t. I haven’t met him yet, but I can feel myself getting closer. I’m enjoying the roundabout journey I’m taking to find him. It might take me a little longer, but when I meet him he can be sure that I’m whole, I’m ready, and I’m excited to share my passions, my dreams, and my life with him and to have him share his with me in turn.

Like I said, there’s a great big world out there for me to see. Life is one very exciting adventure and it would sure be grand to be holding someone’s hand as I live through it.

So for all you women out there who get asked the same questions from well-meaning and sometimes not so well-meaning friends and family: DO NOT GIVE IN. DO NOT SETTLE. And absolutely DO NOT let it be a factor in your decisions. You will come to it in your own damn time, and in your own way. Be strong.

Posted in dating, Feminism, relationships

Of Retinal Detachments (Maybe!) and Late Night Realisations 

It was the middle of the night and I was caught in a rather strange dream about two of my workmates when my sister suddenly barged into my room, frightened, because she had a sudden blurring of vision on one eye. Being a nurse aaaaand somewhat of a hypochondriac my brain automatically goes to the worst case scenario. Some people would probably think its nothing, but I immediately think retinal detachment, macular degeneration and oh God, let’s go to the A and E.

It made me think about the other times that my sister would come barging into my room with one form of complaint or another, whether its the fact that we’ve suddenly lost the wifi or something more serious like when the time she had severe abdominal pain (and we really HAD to go to the A and E because her pain tolerance is minimal to the point of nonexistence). She comes in expecting me to be the mature adult when I really have no idea what I’m doing half the time. Its funny because really, between the two of us my sister would probably be considered more mature but when it comes to acting quickly in a crisis, I’m your girl. 

My brain doesn’t believe in wasting time. It will automatically go into problem solving mode and switch from ‘Houston we have a problem‘ to ‘okay, what can we do?’. That’s not to say I’m fearless; in fact, I’m probably scared shitless the whole time. But the way I deal with fear is to eliminate the source as quickly as possible and most of the time fear comes with the unknown. So no matter how bad it might be, I would always search for answers and the root cause of the problem so I can go about looking for solutions. I’ve never really thought about it, but I suppose this is one of my greatest strengths.

Its also incredibly exhausting.

And when Arlene came into my room that night, I found myself wishing there was someone else with me to support me for a change, someone I can rely on and count on, even if its just someone who will call an Uber whil I deal with my sister. I am usually the first person to bolster someone who’s feeling lonely and afraid because they’re single. I am probably the poster child for single adulthood because I can say with all honesty that I’ve never felt like there was something missing in my life just because I don’t have a boyfriend/partner/husband. It would certainly be nice, but its not something I would force or rush into just for the sake of it. Its too important a life decision to treat impulsively.

But that feeling of wanting someone as a partner came over me suddenly that night, I have to say. Not to use as a crutch, but like I said, it would be nice to have a shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold as I face life’s many inevitable problems. Its the kind of feeling that probably means my online dating presence will be much more rampant in the coming days.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I’m generally a very strong person, it would be nice not to have to be strong all the time, to trust someone enough to let go of the reins and to be able to cede control of my life to another person for a few moments, trusting that they’ll act in my best interests and that when I’ve recharged they’ll hand it over to me, and I will be all the better for it. To me, that’s what being in a relationship means and if that’s what’s waiting for me at the end of all this dating palaver, I will gladly go on Tinder and whatever other online dating app there is. 

I talk to the universe and God less and less about my love life because I think they have other more important things to worry about but just in case they’re in the middle of a break and have 3 seconda to spare, this is me asking nicely for them to give a girl a break, enough is enough, maybe its my turn to win the relationship lottery huh? Its been a long time coming. 

Posted in Books, Feminism, Reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: Young Jane Young – Gabrielle Zevin 

Its a narrative as old as time.

 
Young, naive woman meets succesful, prominent  and married older man and is mesmerised by his charismatic persona that she decides to pursue him. They inevitably get caught and get caught up in a scandal. He asks for forgiveness from the public and his wife.

 
The wife has to put her game face on and forgive him; she stands by him and his career and puts the mantle of ‘wronged but strong woman on’ and she gets lauded for this behaviour. Its the ONLY thing that gets her through the days when she wants to scream and shout from rage at the shame and humiliation of it all.

 
The other woman becomes a social pariah; an internet joke; a cautionary tale to young girls everywhere; a shining example of everything that feminism isn’t.
He gets away with a metaphorical slap on the wrist and continues to serve his office for at least one more term.


If all that sounds familiar, that’s because sometimes truth is stranger than fiction and we all had to bear witness as this political sex scandal was gleefully covered by the media almost two decades ago. I think I must have been 9 or 10 when the whole Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton scandal broke out. Although I was too young to understand the intricacies of that affair, the basics were pretty clear: he cheated on his wife with a young intern under his employ.

This book was based largely on that true-to-life story but its gives a different perspective and a decidely feminist stance. Aviva Grossman is ‘Florida’s Answer to Monica Lewinsky’ and despite the fact that I abhor the idea of mistresses, the author managed to make even me sympathise and relate to her. All she really wanted is to move on from the repurcussions of that youthful indiscretion and start a new life for herself. In the grand scheme of things, and considering all that she went through, that shouldn’t be too much to ask.

 
But the world can be unforgiving. Aviva drew several parallels from ‘The Scarlet Letter’ when reflecting on her experiences and its true. She may not have been asked to wear a big red A in front of the town, true. But all anyone had to do was google her name and they’d find every detail of the affair (she stupidly kept an anonymous blog that everyone eventually figured out was hers). She had a permanent infamous presence on the internet.

 
‘Slut-shaming’ is a term I hear quite often. I don’t specifically know what it means to slut-shame anyone but I guess its when one or more person makes a judgment about another person’s private life and makes her feel ashamed for her choices. Its anything that paints a woman as this character because she appears to be…forward. This book is meant to be a commentary on slut-shaming and it hits more than it misses.
Its certainly made me feel uncomfortable. It made me think about how often we probably do this unconsciously. There may have been instances where we’ve judged another woman too quickly on her choices and labelled them well, a slut, where they may not have deserved it. You never really know what a person is going through and cliche as it may sound there are always two sides to every story. Who are we to judge other people’s choices? F. Scott Fitzgerald had it right when he said:

Whenever you feel like criticising anyone, remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.

It all comes down to choice. This is the kind of feminism that books like these fight for: a woman’s right to make and not be judged for the choices she makes. Its not even about the affair and the scandal really. It doesn’t even go into the details of the affair; rather it focuses on the internal struggle between knowing something is wrong and doing it anyway, as well as the long-term effects on Aviva or Jane Young after she had her name legallly changed.

 
Its absolutely inspiring to read the little snippets of feminism that was injected into this book. Its subtle but its there, and it makes you think about how wonderful it is to be human and a woman in 2017, that we’ve come so far in terms of achieving gender equality. I highly recommend this book.

Posted in Feminism, fighting, fitness

Things I Learned From My First Sparring Class

Yesterday, I decided to attend the mixed muay thai class at London Fight Factory for the first time since my friend and trainer Aaron took over teaching the class. I’ve been thinking about where I want to go with muay thai and I got this worm of an idea in my head that I just can’t get rid of. I somehow got it into my head that I might eventually (like, next year) want to fight. For real.

I know, I know. Its a crazy idea. My sister gave me the most incredulous, horrified look when I told her. I think she was already having visions of my broken nose, among other parts of my body that could potentially be damaged in a real muay thai match. Why, why, WHY would I want to do something so crazy?

But. I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve never really pushed myself to do something so far out of my comfort zone. I’ve always been afraid to try anything that’s not academic or intellectual because that’s how I always saw myself. I’ve placed my abilities in a box with very defined limits and everything I’ve done has been based on that. In one of my previous posts, I’ve already talked about how muay thai has changed the way I see myself. And now, for the first time, I’m thinking that if I commit myself to training and if I work hard enough, maybe MAYBE I can get to a level where I can at least put up a good fight. If nothing else, it will give me a goal to works toward and that’s always a good thing.

So, Aaron thought it would be a good idea for me to attend the mixed class and start sparring so that we can see how I do against other people in a controlled environment. I bought a mouth guard to protect myself while sparring, although I ended up not being able to use it because it was too tight (I must have set it wrong, lol). I was so excited and nervous going into the class. Honestly, I’ve seen what these guys do whenever I’m a little early for personal training and Aaron’s still finishing up a class, and its incredibly intimidating.

But you know what? I’m glad I came because it was a real eye-opener, not to mention a shitload of fun! Halfway through I found myself too busy and too focused to be nervous. I didn’t even realise we were already getting to the end of the 90-minute class.  Time flies when you’re making sure you’re able to dodge those kicks and punches. There’s a few things I’ve learned in that session that applies to both my training  that I’d like to share with you guys.

Think about where you can do the most damage

When you first train with muay thai, you start out by hitting pads. I think I somehow got so used to pad-work that I never really thought about the real goal here, which is to aim for actual body parts to either set up your next move or to do the most damage. Because again, its a fight, not an exercise. You’re not hitting pads anymore when you fight, you’re hitting another person.

In our last one-to-one, my trainer gave me an impromptu anatomy lesson so that I would know what I’m hitting when I aim for certain body parts. Like if I do a right body punch, I’m hitting the liver which – if you punch hard enough- is apparently the equivalent of a man getting kicked in the nuts. I’ll take his word for it as I will never have the opportunity to know.

With the first few rounds of sparring, I think I was aiming for the other person’s glove because I was still in a pad-work state of mind. Its only when my partner, Helene, started saying ‘aim for my face’ that I realised that the training wheels are off. I am now punching and kicking a moving, reacting target and I have to punch THEM because for sure they will punch ME. Its something to think about when I attend the next class.

 

Get them before they get you

When I do personal training, we do these drills so that I’m quicker with my punches, especially the jab. See video below.

I never fully understood the point of this exercise until yesterday. You really have to be quicker with the punches and get your hits in so that you’re in control of the situation. That left jab sets up so many of your next moves so if you’re lightning quick with its, the other person literally won’t know what hit them.

Also, I really have to stop apologising whenever my punches actually land. I found myself doing this A LOT yesterday. Like one of my fakes (see next item) would actually work and I’d get a punch in only to ruin it by stopping to say ‘oh sorry, I’m so sorry’. That’s good, I guess, because hurting people does not come naturally to me and goes against my Disney Princess instincts. But this is a fight. Hurting people so they can’t hurt you is kind of the point.

 

The art of misdirection

This was, by far, my most favourite lesson. On our last one-to-one, Aaron taught me how fighters used ‘faking’ to either open up a target or lure their opponent into a trap so they can strike where it hurts. I tried to apply this to sparring yesterday and I think it helped me land a few shots. However, I think I was giving myself away far too much (amateur!). Despite my intense concentration on the opponent before me, I could hear Aaron’s voice in the periphery saying ‘Eyes front Angela, you give yourself away each time because you’re looking at your next target’.

I know I keep talking about how I’m doing muay thai to prove to myself that I am more than just my brain but the truth is, it is way more mental than people give it credit for. You really have to have a strategy and think about what you can do, or how to do something your opponent won’t expect or won’t see coming (and therefore, won’t be able to block against).

A good defence is a good offence, and vice versa

So I’ve talked about being lightning quick with those jabs, but really there will be times when you WILL be on the receiving end of said jabs and you have to put up a good defense. I think this is the area that I have to work on the most. I could have done better with blocking some of those punches and kicks that I received (and maybe avoid getting hit in the b***bs so much). I let my guard down a lot of times and got my fair share of jabs, and they really hurt. So when Aaron was giving me those anatomy lessons and saying how a punch straight in the nose will disorientate your opponent? Oh boy, he wasn’t kidding. Getting punched in the nose, even in class, is not an experience I particularly want to repeat.

Nor do you want to put yourself in a position where you’re just defending and blocking all the time. You somehow have to find a way to extricate yourself from that situation, or back yourself out of that corner, so that you’re in the offensive – and in control – once again. I’ll have to work on this. I think I have good reflexes and really, its only natural to move out of the way when something comes at you but I have to channel those natural instincts into a skill.

 

Kill the boy, and let the man be born.

Line sounds familiar? Its from Game of Thrones for those of you living under a rock. Maester Aemon gave this advice to Jon Snow when he first got elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and it just came to me when I was thinking about the class I’d just attended, and from the watching the other women in class. Its amazing: they ask for and give no quarter. They pair up with other men and get treated and respected as an equal.

I came to class thinking I’d tell my teacher and whoever I ended up being paired with to go easy on me because I’ve not sparred before but actually, I realise that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to FIGHT. I wanted to take the hits and know that the world didn’t end because I got punched in the nose a few times. I can only learn from it (BLOCK, ANGELA, BLOCK) and be better from it. I think if you do muay thai you have to be strong mentally as well as physically.

By the time I got to my third partner for the day, I was actually saying ‘its my first time but don’t hold back on me’ (I mean, don’t hurt me or anything, but don’t hold back. haha). I wanted to learn and believe me, I did. Kill the girl, and let the fighter be born. 

 

If anyone’s interested in attending these classes, you can find the London Fight Factory Timetable here. Its really great and people are really supportive, I’d really recommend it!

Posted in Books, Careers, Feminism, Lifestyle, london, Reviews

Book Review: The Great Chick-Lit-A-Thon

I always think that people who abuse chick-lit as being all fluff and no substance has never had a week where you’ve used your brain so much that you just want to sit down for a day and not use up any more brain cells. That is what a chick lit is for. Its not unintelligent; in fact, I think it takes brains and talent to write a good chick lit. I don’t think it should even be called chick lit, that term is absolutely sexist. Yes, these books are written for and by women but I think men can learn a lot from them too (It certainly won’t hurt their E.Q. )

I will defend chick lits with my life. I think there comes a point in your year where you absolutely need a good escapist read. I think people who disparage these books as being so far from literature should get over themselves. Of course they’re not literature! One way to avoid going through life perpetually disappointed is to adjust your expectations. Take these books the way they were meant to be taken: they are pure, escapist enjoyment meant to be taken on a beach holiday and read for relaxation. Once in a while they provide a good social commentary and that is why this genre exists, because it is relatable AF.

Ok, I’ve said my piece. Let’s get to the review.

Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld

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Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books of all time (talk about literature!). I love it so much that I’ve seen both the tv and movie version at least 10 times;

I salivated over seeing Matthew McFadden walking down Soho and I’m still kicking myself for not having the balls to get his autograph. I’ve read every spinoff of the book that has ever been released, even trashy ones such as Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife and Elizabeth and Darcy. I even considered reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but stopped myself. So when I saw this book on a trip to Waterstones, I thought, why not?

Eligible is a modern retelling of the classic tale every woman out there (who hasn’t been living under a rock) loves. For the life of me, I cannot understand why out of all the bars and gin joints in the world Curtis Sittenfeld chose to set this story in Cincinnati. There could not be a less glamorous setting for a retelling. But I read on a review somewhere that the author came form Cincinnati so she’s probably killing two birds with one stone: writing about what she knows and shamelessly plugging her hometown.

Mr. Bingley (or Chip Bingley in this version) is an ER (A and E for those of us on this side of the Atlantic) doctor who was once a contestant in a reality show called Eligible, which I imagine to be something similar to The Bachelor. He went on it on the urging of his sister/manager Caroline and because he wanted to find love. At the end of it he just could not bring himself to choose from either of the finalists because he didn’t think what he had with them was real. He moved to Cincinnati and took a job at the University Hospital where his good friend Fitzwilliam Darcy was a bloody neurosurgeon (of course he is).

Liz and Jane are not the shy, innocent virgins that they were in the original version. In fact, Jane is nearly forty, a yoga instructor and has been trying to have a child through IVF for years. Liz is 38, works for a magazine and has been having an affair with her close friend, the married Jasper Wick (Mr Wickham) for a long time and has been stupidly in love with him for even longer. They are both called back to the family home when their father has a heart attack.

I found this to be a really clever retelling. The Bennets are just as ridiculous as in the original and Mrs Bennet clearly transcends generations, revisions and retelling because I found her just as overbearing and annoying. I think the book did a really good job of injecting modern issues while still keeping the theme of the original intact. And I guess that’s only to be expected because no matter how enlightened and progressive we believe ourselves to be as a society, marriage is still by-and-large a game. An eligible bachelor such as Chip Bingley is still eyed and sized by ambitious mamas out there to see if he’s the right fit for their daughters. I’ve talked about the pressure to be paired up and settled as you grow older in my previous blog and that’s hasn’t changed from when Jane Austen published her novel. The shelf-life of women has probably expanded a bit, but a woman in her 30s who is still single is still seen as an anomaly.

I like how this book tackles feminism and proposes the idea that to devote yourself to another person doesn’t mean having to give up being your own woman.

There’s a belief that to take care of someone else, or to let someone else take care of you—that both are inherently unfeminist. I don’t agree. There’s no shame in devoting yourself to another person, as long as he devotes himself to you in return.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable book.

My Not So Perfect Life – Sophie Kinsella

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I used to love Sophie Kinsella when I was in college. When I moved to London I found it a little hard to read her books because I thought they were unrealistic. Living in London is fun but its incredibly tough. Not everyone gets the glamorous jobs in advertising; we don’t all have fun Friday nights where we do all kinds of quirky things. In short, its not as perfect as her novels seem to portray.

Which is why I love this one.

My Not So Perfect Life is a glaring reality check on what social media has done to us as a society, especially for the younger generation, the so-called millennials. I think that we’ve all always felt the pressure to be perfect: the perfect daughter, the perfect employee, the perfect woman. With the advent of social media, there is an added pressure to not just be perfect but to make sure that everyone else knows it. To be honest, I sometimes hate looking at social media feeds, especially when I’ve had a particularly tough day at work or if I’ve had to re-think my holiday plans because I just can’t afford it. I see my friends’ posts and they just seem to be on holiday all the time and I find myself thinking, how in the hell did they find the time and money to do all that? Or I look at other people’s blogs or vlogs and think, mine will never be as interesting as that, my life just isn’t that instagrammable.

Truly, don’t ever go on Facebook or Instagram if you’re not feeling good about your life. 

This book tells the story behind the social media posts. It dares to say that there’s a story behind every perfect post. People project what they want to project into the social media world because they feel the need to maintain an image. Not all of it is real. We shouldn’t lose sight of who we are just because we inspire to be instagrammable. We shouldn’t bend over backwards to make other people think life is perfect because guess what? No one’s life is perfect. Not even movie stars with their blogger poses. They go through their ups and downs the same way as we do, they probably just hide it better. And maybe they have more expensive drinks to process their grief, but grieve they do nonetheless.

I loved this book. I finished it in one sitting. At one point, I felt the need to book myself into a glamping campsite just to see what the experience is like.

I think this book has an important message, especially to the young women of today.

Whoever started the rumor that life has to be perfect is a very wicked person, if you ask me.

Life isn’t always instagram-perfect but you don’t want it to be. You are more than your social media feeds, you do not need to maintain an image. Be real, be you, be better than Facebook.

 I would definitely recommend both these books for people who are looking for a light easy read as we near the end of summer. Enjoy, bookworms!