Waxing and whining

I’ve been picky about hair dressers for as long as I’ve needed haircuts. Once I meet and fall in love with the hairdresser destined for me, I go to them for years until either one of us leaves town.

But the rest of the hair on my body doesn’t get the same exclusive treatment. In fact, just the opposite. I’ve been to the big fancy waxing places where you could fall asleep while they de-hair your shin with magical hairy fairy wax.

But if you’ve been to an Indian home-turned-parlour – and you know the ones I’m talking about – then everything else is just fluff. These places – they’re loud, they’re rough and they scare the hair right out of the follicles. Two girls armed with wax strips and butter knives come at you like seagulls after a chippy, and turn you from a wildebeest to sheared sheep in under 30 mins. (If you’re in a hurry, they can make that four girls.)

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Generally called Angel’s Glow, Fair Beauty, Ladies Touch (Not a typo) or Miss Lovely, all of them offer the luxury and service of trying out wedding gowns in a fish market by the train tracks.

I was at one such magical place this past weekend.

Housed in a 2-bed apartment, the parlour makes you feel at home instantly. And by home, I mean the place where all your least favourite family members have gathered, but you can’t leave because the promise of free food has already made you its bitch.

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The living room serves as the reception (a row of chairs stacked against the wall) and as the hair-dyeing, face-fixing, hair-cutting zone. The chairs and mirrors point to the TV, which plays loud Bollywood music or, if you’re lucky, even louder Hindi soaps. This room also doubles up as the Society of Aunties Against Single Standards (SAASS) (omg this literally means mother-in-law in Hindi. It was purely coincidental and I love my mom-in-law who would never make it into this club.)

This group of powerful and opinionated women would make for ideal feminists if not for their fellow-female-cutting-down chainsaw and girls-your-age theories. But given their love of double standards, it is imperative to make your point and get out of the way, so they can disagree with you while agreeing with you.

I’m ushered into one of the bedrooms. Each bedroom is divided into refrigerator-sized subsections of semi-private waxing booths. A cold, hard plastic chair greets me, while my wallet trashes around my pocket wildly, begging to be spent at a swankier joint. Nope. Imma save that for the dermatologist.

We skip niceties and the waxer forward-slash life coach proceeds to scrape a vegemite-level schmear of wax along the length of my shin with the blunt side of a spatula-formerly-known-as butter-knife. Who cares if the wax just burnt through two layers of epidermis when you’re hoping the knife doesn’t puncture one of your blood vessels.

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When she stumbles upon my fourth tattoo, she can’t contain herself any more. Our conversation starts abruptly when the waxer informs me, the waxee, that when I get bored of my tattoos, laser is going to hurt. She knows. Her one client is never getting inked again. I shouldn’t either.

I mumble incoherently about knowing what I want, while it is painfully obvious that the woman with the hot wax and blunt knife knows what I really want.

Our awkward silence is broken by an active member of SAASS from the adjoining room. The conversation has been building up from Bollywood movies to Bollywood movie stars. Some heroine who is over the hill (30s) just had a baby. The woman getting her greys dyed black is about to drop some red hot wisdom. She cuts another woman off to loudly proclaim, in a voice that drips with wisdom – that women have a time for everything – studies, marriage and children. Maybe a career if it fits.

Of course she’s going to back it up.

“Why else would the female body hit puberty and menopause when it does?”

Boom.

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Given my stance of not taking any bullshit this year, I want to stand on the chair and educate them about positive body image, being strong female role models and uplifting girls, not boxing them in.

But I find myself standing atop a chair with more pressing work. The waxer is waxing the back of my legs and she finds it easier if I stand on top of the chair facing the wall, giving her a better vantage.

It is from this vantage that she spots my ankle tattoo. She decides that I don’t deserve her wisdom, so she mumbles to herself about spoiling your body. She throws a few rhetorical questions at my calves.

I steel myself to answer her. Yes, it hurt. No, my husband “doesn’t mind” – neither did my parents or 3-year-old son. Before I could school her on my-body-my-choice, she asks me to step down from my pedestal.

Meanwhile, so steadfast is our SAASS activist in her archaic views that she continues to Godzilla over everyone else with half an opinion and half a head of foils. By the sounds of it, mostly everyone in the reception/ face-fix room/ hair-do chair agree with her. They only wish for a chance to get into her SAASS club; they only wish she would accept their humble offerings in the form of a salacious story of their sister’s neighbour’s wayward daughter.

As I walk past these stalwarts of society in various stages of bleaching and dyeing, I feel guilty for tearing these women down in my head. I may not agree with a word they say, but it’s safe to assume they run their homes like a tight ship and practise a uniquely Indian form of feminism, which will always be at odds with what they preach.

Besides, I’m not picking a fight when I’ve just paid 1/10th of what it would’ve cost me elsewhere.

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All images from Google the Saviour and Creator.

If you ever find your way to one of these magic 2-bedroom-multi-room-salons, remember to keep your ears open and hand-sanitiser close. You’ll be wiser for it, and hairless in half the time.

Another month, another move

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It’s 7:15pm and I just want to crawl into my parents’ pull-out sofa bed and pass out.

12 hours earlier we left our spotless new apartment, with stars in our eyes and crumpled clothes on our backs. This was it, our first official workday from our new home.

It’s 7:18pm and we’re taking the familiar elevator up to my parent’s home to pick our son up and say no to my mum’s requests to have dinner with them – just twice, before we say yes.

We’re late because we went to buy groceries for the little guy, who starts school tomorrow. We stood in front of the vegetable aisle for 5 minutes trying to tell spinach apart from every other green leafy leaf. (It’s been 17 months since we last cooked. And last time we shopped, “spinach” was written in English. And we forgot.)

It’s 7:30pm and I’ve shamelessly handed over the freshly bought chicken and pasta to mum, asking her to cook my son’s school lunch.

It’s 7:31pm and I am so ashamed. I’ll chastise myself when I get that half an hour extra of sleep tomorrow night.

The last time I did this, it was so much fun. The novelty of sitting on the floor and eating pizzas, of picking clothes out of boxes and of imagining all the ways to fill up your corner space, is now replaced with a crippling case of nerves and fatigue. And fatigue.

It’s 8:05pm and we’ve been saying bye for about 6 minutes now. I don’t know what we’re expecting: for them to ask us to stay over tonight or to stay forever?

We enter the new place and are instantly glad to have our own space. Except when we see the kid’s lunch bowl and bottles in the sink. Why can he just use paper plates and cups like we do?

It’s 11.38pm and the only stars in my eyes now are the ones swirling around my head.

Kid’s school lunch only took about 2 hours of prep time. That should do – to impress the teachers, that is; he’s going to reject it anyway.

1t’s 12:18 and I’ve been awake for 18 hours and need to be up at I’ll-smash-that-goddamn-alarm o’clock. I’m writing this random piece because I’m overtired and cannot sleep.

Sorry, what were we talking about? I dozed off for a minute there.

Oh yeah, new house. Yay!

The other day.

Just the other day, we were out window shopping when we got-on-a-flight-and-went-to-melbourne-and-returned-a-month-later-and-flew-out-to-muscat-for-the-weekend-and-signed-the-kid-up-for-school-and-found-an-apartment-and-got-into-a-super-intense-interior-decoration-mode-and-HOLYSHIT-I-FORGOT-ABOUT-THE-BLOG.

I’d apologise for my absence, but then I’d have to apologise for my insolence in assuming that my absence was felt. (Except for you lovely ladies; thank you for checking on me. And I’m sorry.)

Since I last wrote, I’ve been back home to Melbourne and back home to Kuwait, I’ve found a house to make our home again, my hair is blue-er and purple-er and turquoise-er, I got another tattoo, I’m finding my way out of the darkness, and I’m not much wiser than I was three months ago.

But I have been scribbling down incoherent sentences in disconnected places. Maybe at some point in the next few months I’ll be able to unpack my life and regroup my thoughts. Until then, these are the things I think of when the lights go off.

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  1. Meeting old friends is an emotional rocket in your pocket. Must do often.
  2. As Mufasa* wisely taught Simba: “It moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place in the path unwinding. In the circle of life.” We go from school cliques to relationships to jobs. Before you know it, you’re attending weddings and helping friends move into new homes. And divorces. Then cribs and sleep training, and right back to school cliques. Whether you’re ahead or behind, you’re always in the circle.
  3. Moving homes/ jobs/ across the globe is a massive change. But as long as you’re doing the same old things in a new place, you haven’t moved at all.
  4. Forever is a cop out. Don’t promise to love forever. Promise to love every day.
  5. Anxiety is very real. Very lonely. Very scary. Very get-over-it-ed.
  6. Screw promises. Just get shit done.
  7. Life is hard work. Literally. It’s actual work. When you’re under-appreciated, under-valued and ill-treated, some mentally check out, some quit. Best bet is yourself. Be your own boss. When you figure that out, partner with people who make you happy and help you grow by helping themselves.
  8. Sometimes you need to go back around the world to see where you need to be. Other times, you need to go back around the world to see that there was always a happy place, and there always will be.
  9. You aren’t a bad person for wanting both – a safe home for every child, and a vintage chic yellow settee to go in your new living room.
  10. Me-time is not necessarily for self-discovery. It’s for mentally checking-out and checking other people out. Self-discovery mostly happens at peak stress levels, and perhaps on either side of me-time?
  11. Resentment truly is the poison they all say it is. But it isn’t as easy to let go off as they all ask you to do. Leeching is the way to go. Stick a proverbial worm on your self, let it drain out the bad blood, and don’t try to pull it out too soon. It is slow, painful and puts you off resenting anything for a while.
  12. The cliché, cheesy self-motivational quotes that you stashed away in your teens – DIG THEM OUT. Put them on your wall, mirror, desktop, phone screen. Read them every day.

Less ramblings and more coherent-ish thoughts from the next post on. I promise.

No, wait. I take it back. No promise. No deal. Next week is moving week and pre-kindy for the little guy. There will be no coherence of any sort.

 

*Disclaimer: I’m one of the 3 people in the world who never watched this movie. Luckily, Google.

Un-settling down.

As kids, right when we were in the thick of running wild and having the time of our lives, an adult would walk in and ask us to settle down.

Settle down, or you’ll hurt yourself.

Settle down, and stop making a mess.

Settle down, it’s getting too loud in here.

Just. Settle. Down.

Settle BB

When we left our home in Melbourne almost a year ago, we were very excited to start a new adventure. It took a record-breaking 3 days for the question to burst out of tightly clenched lips: When do you plan to settle down?

We had no plans whatsoever. We just wanted to enjoy being free. But as responsible adults, we simply must not feel free for too long. We must settle down.

For someone who doesn’t have commitment issues, I have major settling-down issues. There’s something very permanent and dreary about that word.

Yes, I’ll set up our home, get our lives into some semblance of a routine, and maybe even plan ahead for our next meal (I’m not making any promises). We all need to do that. It’s called being an adult. But settling down simply cannot be the only way to adult.

Nope. Turns out, it isn’t.

My Facebook feed is rife with stories about “This Couple Travelled The World With Their Toddler” and “Follow This Amazing Family As They Drive From Your Neighbourhood To Where You Don’t Have The Guts To Go.”

They’re farking heroes, these people. Why can’t I be part of The Couple That Visited 20 Countries In 6 Months With Their Babies?

Not gutsy enough? Perhaps.

Not my cup of Carpe Diem? That’s more like it.

I’d love to see the world, but I’m not an impassioned traveller with a wanderlust tattoo on my ankle and a world map as my screen saver. I’m fascinated with the world, and I hope to live in different places and visit many more. In my own sweet time.

On one end, it’s been drilled into us that we need to find a comfortable spot and stay. So we work hard every day to get to that glorious finish line; some days, we question the finish line, but persevere none the less. Because for many, success equates with happiness.

On the other end, it’s is being drilled into us to drop everything we’re doing and go live our life! Because for many others, experience equates with happiness.

But who’s to say what my life should be? I’m not settling for someone else’s dream. And you shouldn’t have to either.

Stay where you are. Pack up and leave. Buy that house. Take a one-way ticket to the other end of the world. Make a baby. Throw a rooftop party.

Just. Don’t. Settle. Down.

Settle JL

So my answer is: No. Even if we find our dream jobs, perfect home and stay for 20 years, I hope we don’t settle down. I hope we’re still restless and looking forward to our next big adventure.

Melbourne: chockers full of life.

Try to read something on Melbourne, and you’ll see the recurring topics – laneways, trams, heritage buildings, culture, food, secret bars. You’ll also see that every article begins with the disclaimer that it will ooze the same gooey self-love and unabashed pride.

I don’t know the complete history behind the city, and who our founding mothers and fathers were. But I’m sure they were funny. And kind. And self-depreciating. And just plain awesome.

Because heritage and culture aside, I reckon it’s the people who make Melbourne the most liveable city in the world.

The Melbournians.

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Source: Melbourne street art

Like the tram driver who entertained us with his commentary on everything we rode past. He spoke about people, buildings, restaurants, and even suggested skipping work for a day at the beach. Most of us put aside our books and phones, to listen to the man who was trying so hard to make us smile. This mundane morning hero turned every passenger into a happy bug that he set loose into the city.

Or the train driver I’ve had the honour of travelling with a few times. He talked to us about his day, and rhetorically asked us about ours. He then painted a glorious picture of going back home, to warmth, dinner, family and love. If there was a delay, he stood with us in impatience and cynical humour.

More than once, I’ve walked into the ladies’ room to see the janitor getting a hug and thank-you for the splendid job she was doing.

There was the time I shared my tram seat with an elderly woman and her granddaughter. It was her first tram-ride in thirty-odd years. From the moment she took her seat, until I had to tear myself away from her, I regaled in her stories of tram-rides in old Melbourne. Of friendships, loves and teenage escapades in another era.

Another time, my friend and I jumped up to offer our seats to a pair of vivacious older women. “Oh my God, we’re seniors!” one said to the other, between mock disbelief and can’t-fight-the-giggles. Goals.

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Source: Melbourne Street Art

They’re everywhere, these good people.

People at work who genuinely want to get to know you.

People who compliment your shoes, shirt and hair without any hesitation.

Retail assistants and checkout persons, who ask you how your day is and actually listen to your answer.

Every place I’ve been, people want to be somewhere else. Look at me. I’ve always gone somewhere else. But mostly, people want to leave where they are. Melbournians always want to come back. Not in a “it’s home” way, but in a “Fuckme. How lucky am I to be here” way.

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Artist: Baby Guerilla, Source: Melbourne Street Art

Everyone has a good word for you, about the weather, weekend or book you’re reading.

A smile and a nod are the norm.

A sense of humour is appreciated.

A “how’s it going?” is all you need to break the ice.

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Artist: Fintan Magee, Source: Melbourne Street Art

Ah Melbournians, love yer work.

The (un)fairer sex.

HeForShe

 

I am a feminist.

Because I am a feminist.

Recently there was a douchebag espousing some douchbaggery against feminism, homosexuality and fireflies, I think. In general, I’d ignore these living-in-my-mum’s-basement idiots who call themselves kings. But I reckon we need to hear this one out.

Not because everyone has a right to their opinion (which include terms like legal rape, fat girls and anti-gay), but because this thing has followers. Men who feel vindicated and emasculated by “feminazis”.

And women who agree with them. Women who think that we’ve “taken this too far” are mocking every woman who has been verbally and physically abused by men because she’s just a girl. They’re mocking every woman who was beaten and jailed for standing up for our right to vote.

I respect that women shouldn’t pull other women down. But if we can call men out on sexism, then feminism says that we should call everyone out equally.

In these past few months of travelling and living in different parts of the world, I’ve been exposed to a comfortable bias that makes me very uncomfortable.

It started with the stares I got when I asked M to help with taking the baby to the loo, washing his bottles or with the laundry. The stares are mostly puzzled, but a few stares also reek of disdain.

At first, I was enraged with the attitude. As if it’s below the “man” to do such menial tasks. But with time – it’s pretty clear that it isn’t male superiority that’s being honoured. It’s male ineptitude.

It’s the inside joke that men can’t do a good enough job.

If I was at the receiving end of the stares, M was nothing short of a spectacle either. He did, after all, get onto what he needed to do. What I asked him to do

Because what wasn’t obvious to me through my equality-tinted glasses was that men weren’t wired to do certain things. Like care for a baby, or step into the kitchen without making a giant mess for us poor – but efficient – women to clean up, or god-forbid boyishly forget to separate the colours from the whites. We, women, should just do those chores and save ourselves the trouble of explaining it to the men or waste time picking up after them.

Would you want to be the butt of that inside joke?

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When organisations promote the hiring of women, I see how desperately we need this, but I wonder if it is working against equality? Yes, we need to see it in writing because the norm has become to look at a woman as a flight-risk, and a mother as a liability. But no, we’re not getting promotions because we wear skirts. We sometimes wear pants, too.

Women before me have spent years trying to crack that glass ceiling for the rest of us, yet, unfortunately, we still get asked: “how do you think you can do this job, given you have a 2 year old and all?”

Better. The answer is: She can do the job better (than you).

Her patience is reserved for the said toddler, so don’t push it. Her skill levels just went up 1000 points the minute she learnt how to negotiate meal times and bedtimes (even if it worked just that one time). She won’t crack under pressure; she’s seen her soft-headed baby roll off the bed, she’s calmly cleaned dinner off the floor that only took her all afternoon to make, and she’s brought down 40 degree fevers with her own bare hands.

So yes, I think she can do your silly little job.

Men don’t get asked this question at interviews. Don’t dads want to run home on time to feed their kids? Or stay home when the little person is ill? Aren’t they just as distracted when they know their baby is in someone else’s care? Between my dad, M and friends who are dads, I know they would cringe at the thought of being the inconsequential parent.

Sexism discriminates. And it doesn’t give a flying fuck as to what gender you are.

If you’re still struggling to see the need for feminism, then look at this way: The minute women and men are considered equal, it’ll be a world where “will he be able to watch the kids?” is just as absurd as “will she be able to get the job done?”

A world where boys are free to feel and girls feel free to be. Where asking for help isn’t “girly” and being immature isn’t “boyish”. Where both boys and girls feel safe to walk home alone at night. Where both men and women know they’re getting paid for their hard work and not their gender.

Where you can choose if you want to be a girl or a boy or both or neither. Or if you want to be with a boy or a girl or both or neither. Because not one of them is less than the other. Because we’re all unique, and we’re all equal.

I am a feminist. Because I am a feminist.

Not that kind of friend

As kids, we had to move countries thanks to the child-friendly pastime called war. I lost a few friends while the adults who lead the world squabbled like adults who lead the world. Many other friendships were lost in translation, literally; it wasn’t easy to learn 3 new languages to keep up with the other 7 year olds in India.

While teen years are the most confusing to most people, I was at my cockiest best. I was making friends while walking from the water cooler to the library. Back then, conversation came as easily and frequently as awkward silences do these days. I could write a whole post on my school friends! Oh wait, I did.

If the number of ‘Miss Friendly” sashes I had earned by the end of my school years was anything to go by, life was going to be a breeze.

And as promised by my tone, it was not a breeze.

The rules of adulting were chucked at my face in quick, migraine-inducing succession.

Once you cross 18, tomboys are called butch. There’s no such thing as just texting. There’s feminine and there’s masculine, and you need to choose – now. You’re either politely submissive or an ice queen bitch; you need to choose – now. Pick a clique. You will be judged, adored and despised for reasons beyond your control. Just don’t be a bitch about it.

Fark me, these are the rules against which all of us get measured. Lucky for me, I stopped giving a shit.

Needless to say, I haven’t been winning any “Miss Friendly” sashes in the last decade.

Grown-up-ness also marks the switch from multiple best friends to multiple friend circles. Work friends, family friends, husband’s friends, old friends, mama friends and miscellaneous.

Even within these circles, I sometimes find myself trying to find my self. My fellow former refugees and move-ers may correlate. We don’t have much in common with a large group, our interests are as flaky as our thoughts, and we intermittently drift far, far away. When the friends are great, the place isn’t. When the place is good, you miss the friends. It’s not that we’re dissatisfied, we just want everything. Is that too much to ask for? We honestly want to belong, but seem to have misplaced the ability, somewhere in transit.

Fitting in was never easy for me. Perhaps I wasn’t trying hard enough – or trying at all. It’s not that I didn’t want to; there were several times in my life where fitting in would’ve made life much easier. Instead I invariably, and inevitably, turn into a bumbling, awkward and confused mess with incomplete sentences dribbling out of my gaping mouth.

Luckily, I always find a fabulous bunch of misfits. Our rough edges, broken corners and missing parts make us a noisy bag of spares.

I don’t meet them regularly, don’t share my deepest darkest secrets and don’t know their families like my own. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy their company like a dehydrated person enjoys an ice-cold Slurpee on a wildly hot day. (Yes, it needed all those adjectives.)

Our complete lack of rules and structures of traditional friendships means that no one feels let down or left out. We discuss to great depths our current joys and trials. We celebrate each other’s lives without reflecting on what it means for the future or past. We laugh, cry and over-share. We drink, dance, and then return to our best friends and soul mates and childhood friends.

Every day I miss these ridiculously kind and funny people I call my friends. The very thought of them makes me feel pure happiness of having known them.

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Then, there are people you can’t call friends, because as heart-warming as the word is, it isn’t big enough to carry your love for them.

No matter how distant I feel in a room full of friends, I know I’ll never be lonely because I have 2 of these people. My soul people. I’m the best version of me, when I’m with these beautiful humans.

I must confess something at this point. While this post is an xoxo to the fantastic friends I’ve made over the years, I do have an ulterior motive. This post is also an ad for new friends, of the face-to-face variety. (I have a head-start with my school friends; but we bonded as 17 year olds, and are too busy reminiscing. Leave us alone.)

So here I stand. 32 years old, and starting all over again. I’m calling all misfits and crazies. Old friends and new. I’m open to coffee, frozen yoghurt or all-you-can-eat buffets. I’ll talk, listen, laugh and cry – not necessarily at the appropriate times, but I’ll work on that. I won’t break any promises if you don’t make any. It’ll be a breeze, I promise!

I want my “Miss Friendly” sash back, goddamnit.