Posted in dating, Lifestyle, relationships, romance, Uncategorized

Goodbye, Hopeless Romantic…

Its a rainy Saturday morning in London and I’m listening to the last song on Taylor Swift’s new album and I feel compelled to write a confessional blog.

 

Most of my friends know how much of a hopeless romantic I was. I read romance novels by the dozen every week while I was growing up. Name every literary romantic tropes and I’ve probably fantasised about and lived through them, especially the tragic ones: the enemy turned crush, the popular guy you could never have, your best friend’s boyfriend, and of course, the unrequited love for your best friend.

 

I’m not going to get melodramatic, don’t worry. I’ve already exercised a Taylor Swift-style catharsis on all my past loves in one way or another, including a Facebook message to someone I should have said ‘I loved you’ to a long time ago that is as honest and candid as it is cringeworthy (I still CANNOT believe I did it.)

 

In this age of Tinder and Match.com (and endless stories from my friends of cheating, friends with benefits arrangements, and one-night stands) its hard to hold on to my starry-eyed belief in fairy tales and happily-ever-afters. Its hard to reconcile my unrealistic expectations with the very harsh reality that dating and relationships in the 21st century is not the stuff of Disney movies and Judith McNaught novels.

 

When I moved to London, I resisted the pull of online dating for a long long time. My hopeless romantic soul could not accept the idea that my future love story would be written with an opening line of “…once upon a time there was an app where you can swipe through all the single men within a 5-mile radius”.

 

As time went by and life got busier, I came to fully understand why those sites exist. It is difficult as hell to meet someone in this city and I say ‘bullcrap!” to those articles that say London has the most number of single people in the world. Where are those single, eligible people? They’re certainly not walking up and down the halls of the NHS in scrubs and clogs. They’re not buying Pret coffee or egg McMuffins with bleary eyes and tired faces, already anticipating a long shift at work.

 

So yeah, online dating: today’s version of meeting people in coffee shops and striking up random conversations. Almost the same, except that everything’s virtual. With much reluctance, I ultimately resigned myself to the fact that this is how people date now.

 

At least once a year every year I download an online dating app and try my hand at dating. And without fail, every year for the past 6 years I go on one or two bad dates and then I give up on the process. I delete said app and go back to living the life of an independent woman, telling myself that I refuse to date for the sake of dating and that if its right, it will be easy. I believed (and still believe) that there’s nothing lacking in my life just because I’m not in a relationship; having a partner isn’t what defines me and society can piss of if they tell me 30 is too old to not be married.Β 

 

While all of the above are true, they’re also symptoms of someone who’s tried and failed too many times that it just became too exhausting to try, and easier to tell myself that I’m happier being single. And I’ve been really happy these past 6 years; my life has been enriched by experiences and adventures that have changed me for the better. And with the 20/20 vision that comes with hindsight, I realised that there are two reasons why I’ve always failed at dating (online or otherwise) where others have succeeded: I was never really ready, and I’ve been incredibly lazy.

 

My attitude towards online dating is a little like my attitude towards shopping at TK Maxx. Like I know that there are loads of amazing stuff there but I’m too lazy to go through all the rubbish ones to find that one dress that will make me feel like a million dollars. And then someone comes out with that amazing dress and I kick myself for not making the effort.

 

2017 is the year of the effort. I think that for the first time in a long time I’m genuinely ready for a relationship and I hope that my second-date-claustrophobia won’t rear its ugly head once again. I’ve had three meh dates and one bad one already this year and I’m still trying. I’ve had dates where someone’s nice but boring, where someone’s not boring but is only out for one thing, where there were sparks but no follow through, where there was a follow through but no sparks…and I figure that sooner or later, lightning will strike and all those elements will come together in one date (Please, God, I hope this is true. haha).

 

Baby we’re the new romantics, come on come along with me. Heartbreak is our national anthem, we sing it proudly.

New Romantics | Taylor Swift

 

I’m no longer the hopeless romantic that I was, and while some part of me misses the girl with the rose-coloured glasses, I’m mostly okay because I know she’ll always be there somewhere. She’s there in the way I giggle at every text; she’s there in the way I smile because he’s said something funny; she’s there in the warm feeling I get when he says something that means he gets me even though we’ve just met; she’s there, always, in the way I keep the hope alive that this time lightning has struck. But the great thing about being this new kind of hopeless romantic is that I know, even if I strike out instead, I will somehow find the fortitude to have another go at the bat.Β 

 

Goodbye, hopeless romantic. Hello, Hopeless Romantic 2.0 – bigger (literally), better and stronger version.

Posted in Books, relationships, Reviews, Uncategorized, Women's literature

Book Review: Where’d You Go Bernadette? – Maria Semple

Its funny. 

We never really think of our parents as being people. To us, they’re Mum and Dad: the people who know all the answers, who can make the scary stuff go away, who will always be there to bandage every hurt and dress every wound. Growing up, we see them as these superhuman creatures that we can always count on to catch us when we fall. That’s how I saw my parents anyway.

Until I moved away from home and embarked on my own “adulting” journey, it never occured to me to think of my parents as two people who are probably just as scared as I am about the responsibilities that come with being an adult. No one really gives you a set of instructions for these things; there’s no set objectives like, year one month one: set up a bank account: month two, make sure you have health insurance. You kind of figure it out as you go along. You fake it and hope to God you make it (I imagine parenthood would be the same but magnified because you’re actually responsible for another person).

So why am I waxing lyrical about mum and dad? Well, that’s kind of the key theme of ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette?’. Bernadette Fox is many things to different people: an architectural legend,a brilliant but troubled wife, an uncooperative neighbor and the menace of the local parent-teacher association. But to her daughter Bee, she’s really just Mum. Until Bernadette disappears and Bee has to put together the pieces of her mum’s life to really see the dynamic, complex woman beneath the Mommy mask.

This book is told primarily through letters sent to and from Bernadette and letters about Bernadette. These letters were collected by Bee to help her in search for her mum. I always find this epistolary style quite clever. Its hard to give a full picture of a story through letters and emails but I think if done well, it really works. I actually think this novel loses a lot of steam once we got to the more linear kind of narration (from Bee’s point of view).

The blurb is a little bit misleading because I thought the journey to ‘finding’ Bernadette would involve a lot more, well, travelling. Especially to places that relate to her past. I thought the novel would explore her past more because there was a big build up about this ‘terrible thing’ that happened to her which had such a huge impact on her life. But the actual search for Bernadette seemed a bit anti-climactic. It was pretty obvious where she went and I never really understood why she went there, why she stayed and if anything was resolved at the end of the book.

I’m not sure if we readers are meant to sympathise (and like) the titular character. She seemed a mess to me and while I can see why that is, I think I agree with her husband when he said that we shouldn’t let past failures keep us from trying again. Its how you pick yourself up after a fall that matters after all. While this book is intended to be a satire or a dark comedy, I think Bernadette is a really tragic figure in that she never really realises all her potential. Towards the end its hinted that there might be some resolution but as I said, it wasn’t really clear. Maybe this is intentional, I don’t know. I’ve never really been a fan of books that leave the ending open to interpretation.

What’s evident throughout though is the fact that as troubled as Bernadette may have been, no one can doubt that she tried to be a good mother to Bee. She allowed Bee to be whoever she wanted to be and made everything an adventure. She probably wasn’t the most dependable of parents, but she was there when it mattered. It reminded me of that episode of Modern Family when one character said that 80% of the time, being a good parent meant simply showing up.

So yeah, this book was a good read. While I never really connected to the characters or the plot, I can’t deny that I was thouroughly entertained. Maria Semple’s writing style just flows and I would definitely read her other books if the plot sounds interesting. 

I’d like to end this post with a photo of my mum. Whatever else she may have been in the past, I am happy for the combination of whatever fulfilled dreams, untold failures and twists of fate that led her to being my mama, the wind beneath my wings, my anchor and my rock. 😘

Posted in Books, Classic Literature, Reviews, Uncategorized

Blast From The Past: Book Review – And Then There Were NoneΒ 

People use the term “classic” to refer to something that transcends generations, a piece of work that remains relevant no matter what decade it is.

 This crime novel from Dame Agatha Christie is a classic in every sense of the word.
The plot is simple. 10 strangers are lured into a secluded island off the coast of Devon by the myseterious U.N. Owen. They started off thinking that it’ll be a nice weekend getaway. Then things take a more sinister turn when, after dinner, a pre-recorded gramophone thingy (I have no idea how a gramophone works) accused them all of being guilty of murder.

All of them denied it of course. There was a plausible explanation behind each accusation. They thought someone was just playing a practical joke…until one of them dies. And then one after the other each member of the party is killed, and the murder method is based on an old nursery rhyme called “Ten Little Soldier Boys.” 

Ten little soldier boys went out to dine; one choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little soldier boys sat up very late; one overslept himself and then there were eight.

The remaining guests soon figured out that because of the seclusion of the island and the inability of the boats from the mainland to come across, the murderer could only be one of them. The author did such a great job of creating the atmosphere; one can almost feel the paranoia mounting. Who can you turn to? Who can you trust?

I was amazed that Agatha Christie was able to cram this much action in so few pages. One would think that the characters wouldn’t be as fleshed out because its such a short novel but this actually proves that you don’t need to waste chapters and chapters just to provide someone’s backstory. And this author had 10 characters to contend with! 10 characters represented by 10 figurines of soldier boys in a mantelpiece, each figurine disappearing after one dies. 

Its clear early on that the motive for the murders is related to some form of justice being metted out. But justice for whom? Is the murderer related to one of the purported victims? Is there a common thread to all the victims that would eventually lead to the identity of the killer? These were some of the thoughts running through my head. It felt a little bit like watching the tv show Lost, which tells you how far ahead of its time this novel was. 

My boss told me that the stage adaptation of this book is also quite good. I can see how this would be great as a play; I sometimes felt while reading it that it comes across as a screenplay more than an actual novel. It still doesn’t take away from the genius of it. I was left completely confounded and guessing until the very end. I went so far as to postulate the theory that these people were really all one person, like they were part of “UN Owen”‘s dissociative personality just like in that film with John Cusack called Identity (spoiler alert: they’re not. There really is a murderer!)

I would recommend this book to all lovers of mystery, especially for those who want to have a good read but get bored with long, drawn-out stories. This is for you! 

Posted in Books, Feminism, Reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: Young Jane Young – Gabrielle ZevinΒ 

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.