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RELATIONSHIP ADVICE

Lately, when I talk to young women about their experiences with men, the one thing common theme that appears is that their partner is emotionally and psychologically manipulative. These men use their partners insecurities to get the upper hand in a fight, they invalidate their partners feelings, they seldom take responsibility for their own shortcomings and they make their partner feel inadequate.

Too often these signs are dismissed and not recognised as dangerous or damaging, but young women who are on receiving end of such treatment slowly lose their self-confidence and self-worth. By being manipulated into believing they are the responsible for the man’s behaviour, women punish themselves by working double time to win his approval or affection and they fail to recognise that his behavior is a reflection of who he is and how he feels about himself. This is problematic because these women forget that they deserve better and fall into a pattern of dysfunctional relationship dynamics.

So my advice to young girls embarking on relationships is that your partner is meant to make you feel GREAT about yourself and a healthy relationship is one where you are safe to be who you are. And for all the female friends out there, if your friend is in that position speak up and support them because once the cycle of abuse begins, it doesn’t stop.

THE METAMORPHOSIS OF A FORMER ROMANTIC

 My punch line when my girlfriends tell me about men treating them poorly: “You deserve better”.
             I am the guru of self-empowerment when it comes to giving other women advice on how they should be treated by the men in their lives.Literally, I can hear myself say “Gurl, you need to give him the flip because he ain’t good for you”.  But you know what they say, right? Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach. Well, I am the embodiment of that saying when it comes to a particular man in my life. You know that initial moment in romantic comedies where girl meets boy? Like when Matthew McConaughey rescues Jennifer Lopez from being hit by a wayward bin in The Wedding Planner. I thought I had one of those magical moments at the start of last year.
            This is why being an eternal romantic sucks, because a simple hello becomes a sign of ‘Oh, it’s meant to be’, when in actuality, it really is just a‘hello’. I don’t know what it was he did or said but I tripped and fell, dare I say, head over heels. Normally, being captivated by a seriously handsome guy isn’t something I would complain about.  However, my captor did not know how to treat me with the respect that I deserved: dates were planned an hour in advance, cancellations occurred last minute, there was no appreciation of my efforts and having a conversation was like solving a riddle. Regardless, I put up with it.  I was convinced that underneath this ‘asshole’ façade was a good man with a good heart. Needless to say, I eventually came to the realisation that even doormats were treated better than I was, and that tears were frequently spilled for a guy who, at every opportunity, made me feel pathetic.
            Dating him took a toll on me psychologically. Being someone who is semi-confident in myself I started travelling backwards, with his behaviour defeating and diminishing my self-worth. Obviously, he was treating me poorly because I wasn’t good enough, right?
            Here I was, an attractive, kind and successful 24 year old aspiring for greatness, allowing someone to make me feel exactly the opposite: small and insignificantHis inability to see my worth did not mean that I had none. I wasn’t the problem. But I had a solution.  And the solution involved me walking away.
            The end of that experience allowed me to regain my sense of my self-confidence and self-worth.  But it wouldn’t be exciting if he didn’t reappear again would it?
            Six months later he was back wanting see me because “it had been too long…”.  I was a sucker for giving people second chances and it just so happened I had a soft spot for him…so we went out for dinner.  That date was so convincingly good that it easily fell in my top three (yes, I do keep records). I was hopeful, PRAYING, that this time around things would be different, that he wouldn’t be fickle and reckless with my heart. Truth is, most people don’t change.  They make small adjustments. That was what had happened in this situation; he had made minor adjustments thinking that it was going to be enough to get me across the finish line.  But, when you care about someone, when you sincerely harbor feelings for them, minor just doesn’t cut it.
            We dismiss men who behave like him as being stereotypical ‘assholes’.  In such situations it’s only fair to assume such sentiments, however, if you were to dig beyond the surface you would learn there is more than meets the eye. Upon reflection what I observed was that, behind the last minute cancellations, the inability to communicate and the constant use of “maybe” and “hopefully” was a man imbedded with fear and insecurity. His insecurities were so ingrained within his sense of self that he feared being vulnerable to someone else.  By abusing my sincere feelings towards him, it allowed him to feel temporarily dominant, powerful.  In reality, it seems that what he struggled with most was power within himself.
            Louise Hay wrote “I love myself, therefore, I behave in a loving way to all people”.  What I took from this quote was that when one does not cherish, love and respect themselves they simply cannot reciprocate these feelings to others. Often, these individuals are absorbed by the negativity of their past and caged by regret.  Their inability to let go of the past keeps them from moving forward.
            As a woman, I believed it was a demonstration of commitment and love to tolerate his disparaging behaviour and to give him the opportunity to redeem himself by forgiving and forgetting his prior faults.  In the course of this relationship, I neglected the fact that caring for someone else did not mean that I should also stop caring for myself, and that if I wanted to care for myself, I needed remove myself from future harm or hurt.
            Although it is ingrained in me to do good and help others, what this experience has taught me is that I cannot help those that do not want to be helped. I cannot fix someone or teach them to love themselves. And I most certainly cannot fall victim to their emotional release when they’re going through their own process of self-discovery OR self-destruction.
            I am a person and I too deserve to be treated with love and respect. Just like everyone else I am worthy of that and if not more.

DATING DON’TS

The upside of being single is that I get to go on a lot of first dates and often a first date is where I leave it.  It isn’t because I am picky and I have a list of 57 things I am looking for in a guy. Okay, I may have lied, I have a list but it’s only like 35 qualities long, GGEEZZ.  It’s because majority of these guys tend to engage in a lot of dating don’t behaviours. Now I don’t have a degree in dating, but I do have a lot of girlfriends who have discussed their dating disasters with me and a lot of on the field experience.  This obviously qualifies me to write an article about dating don’ts, DUH!

Disclaimer: These are the experiences and opinions of myself and my friends. These experiences and suggestions do not speak for all women and are all within the context of the situation.

  1. Don’t text me, don’t Facebook me, don’t email me, don’t write me a letter, don’t Kiki messenger me and don’t Snapchat me. JUST CALL ME.

I get it, you’re nervous and you’re worried about the possibility of your voice breaking when my angelic voice says hello. It makes sense, because like in the movies, I could have you at hello.  But you’re not Jerry Maguire and I am not Dorothy.    I get that we live in a technologically advanced society, but there is no reason for you to be so advance that you can creep on my Facebook and Instagram account, spend 20 minutes to articulate the wittiest message of your life and not call me.  Don’t be the effortless and lazy guy.  Be the cool guy, the guy that defies all odds, gets my number and actually calls it.  When you call, the chances are you’ll make a better impression and get an even better response.

  1. Don’t wait for me to contact you about where we’re meeting 20 minutes before the date and then cancel.

It was date number two for my girlfriend and she had been looking forward to taking time out from university and work to enjoy some flirting and footsies over dinner.  With half an hour to go until their scheduled meeting, she messages him to confirm the location.  She got a response saying “Yeh, gotta bail”. Um, but you’re not in jail?  When you leave your manners behind, we reciprocate by leaving you behind too.  Even though your schedule is as busy as President Obama’s, if you’re going to ‘bail’, then at least have the courtesy to let us know a day in advance.

  1. Don’t take me McDonalds or TGI Friday’s.

You know what my favourite part of a date is? The food.  Therefore, my disappointment is understandable when I met my date and he tells me he is taking me to TGI Fridays.  I once went to TGI Fridays, do you know what happened? Food poisoning and taste aversion.  If you’re going to take a girl out on a date it’s only polite to ask her if she has any allergies or intolerances to food or venues.  If that isn’t a part of your repertoire, at least take her somewhere that isn’t going to be a hazard to her health.

I have to be honest, it isn’t just about the food, it’s about the effort and thought that you’ve given to organise that date. I once had someone who organised a date that made me feel like I was in my own version of Nicholas Sparks ‘A walk to remember’.  The date consisted of a delicious lunch at a hidden restaurant overlooking a lake with violins playing in the background followed being taken to watch my first tennis game.  It’s just a shame that at the time I had no idea it was a date. Dates like that that set the bench mark because you know he cares about making you happy and happiness is why we pursue relationships in the first place.

  1. Don’t be silent.

I was working at a university open day when I was approached by a guy who I instantly hit it off with.  His blue eyes and his ability to engage in witty banter made it impossible to deny his request for a date. However, at dinner he sat in silence, the quirky guy I had met a week ago had disappeared and been replaced with a mute. I accepted his personality been abducted by aliens and went into date survival mode.  To revive the situation I engaged in CPR by playing ‘21 questions’, a genius idea, until he decided to answer every question with “I don’t know…”.

Most men are not born entertainers like Kanye West and Usher but if you’re lacking conversation skills I am going to get tired, tune out and think of weird shit like ‘Who came up with the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’.

  1. Don’t compliment me by insulting my nationality or the girls sitting at the next table.

As my date and I had sat down at our table for coffee, he stared at me, smirked and said “I can’t believe you’re Indian, I mean you’re really pretty for an Indian!”  I was so shocked by his passive racist remarks that I just sat there with my mouth open scrimmaging for words.  He must have taken my silence as his queue to continue with his culturally ignorant ideologies because he then asked, “Are you sure you don’t have some white ancestry in you?”.  Compliments where you need to insult a woman’s nationality are not compliments.  They do not make you seem sweet, they make you need like an asshole who conforms to negative stereotypes about minority ethnic groups.

While we’re on the topic of compliments, please don’t feel the need to say“You’re so hot” 107 times.  The fact that you’re attracted to me was obvious when you asked me out on a date, no need to reiterate the fact several times because it’ll make you sound annoyingly superficial.  Also, please don’t make comments like “You’re like so much better looking than the girls sitting next to us at dinner”.  You admitting to checking out other women at dinner is not a turn on and neither is you feeling the need to compare me to other girls.

  1. Don’t turn up looking like you’ve just got out of bed and don’t smell like you’ve just left the gym.

It takes me approximately an hour and half to get ready for a date because I believe in stepping my best foot forward. I wish this was the case with one of the guys I had a date with. I was sitting at a bench on Chapel St when I saw him walking towards me.  His hair looked like birds had made a nest out of it and his clothes looked like they needed to be washed twice.  I was mortified and deciphering how I was going to suddenly feel sick and need to go home. So there we were, walking along Chapel St, me looking like I stepped out of a fashion advertisement and him looking like he stepped out of a horror film.  If you don’t want me to fake an emergency to get out of the date please make sure you that you shower, put a hairbrush through your hair and wear clean ironed clothes.  The only exception to this rule is if you’re Channing Tatum, in that case, you can do no wrong.

Research shows that the most important sensory organ is our sense of smell and that this dictates our mating behaviour.  When it comes to dating I tend to follow my nose as odours have the ability to alter my mood and influence my attraction levels. If you smell like you’ve just left the gym after an intense training session or like you’ve just climbed out a garbage truck, that’s a deal breaker, tough I know.  Odours are the spice of my pheromones and I want your odour to smell like that of a tall, dark and handsome Calvin Klein model.

  1. Don’t show me a picture of your ex-girlfriend, talk about how hot she is or cry about how much you loved her.

So you apparently dated Gisele Bundchen, good for you!  Do you want fries with that? I don’t care if your ex-girlfriend walked the catwalk for Victoria Secret, although I may want her phone number to get some discounts on their lingerie.  The hotness of your ex-partner neither impresses me nor does it say anything about you except for that you’re on the vain side. Moreover, I get that it may have been really hard breaking up with someone that was so hot but please do not feel the need to use our date as talk therapy.  Being a psychology student I know I should be sympathetic to your deep seeded regrets about your break-up, but I am not, especially because dinner is not an adequate charge for a therapy session.

  1. Don’t sit there and use your phone incessantly.

Don’t kill the mood by pulling out your phone and tweeting and texting.

7.05:“Omg I just got here”

7.11:“Omg I just sat down”

7.45:“Omg I am just eating now”

8.30:“Omg she’s so hot”

8.56: “Omg she just smile at me”

9.14:“Omg I think I am gonna get laid tonight”

Don’t do that. Put your fucking phone away.

  1. Don’t get freaked out by eye contact

A great thing is to make eye contact with women. It’ll allow us to connect with you and peer deep into your soul.  It’ll also test if you get freaked out by looking into my big chocolate coloured eyes. But don’t look into my eyes for more than 2.3 minutes because I know what a prolonged look-at-me means.  It means you’re trying to see if I am in love with you. And the answer is no.

  1. Use proper English.

My friend went out on a date with a 43 year old, who initially lied about his age and claimed he was 32.  While the lying was already a deal breaker, the shit storm didn’t hit until he asked her if she wanted to stay over and have ‘breakfasty’ in the morning. Yes, he said breakfasty.  As in pronounced break-fast-ee. Baby talk is for babies, not 43 year old grown men. And no, she isn’t going to stay over for breakfasty.

  1. Don’t invite us out, order everything on the menu, eat it and then make us pay for it.

A girlfriend of mine was invited out for sushi by a guy she wasn’t really all that into. After a month of deliberation, she gave him a chance. On the date, he ordered half the menu and ate everything that came to the table, with my girlfriend only eating one sushi from the platter.  One. Upon the bill arriving, the owner of a ‘prosperous’ business split the bill with my girlfriend, who at the time was a student, and kept her change.  If you invite me out on a date, it is only fair you get the bill because I would have much rather stayed in bed watching a rerun of Mean Girls. And I bet that sounds pretty entitled and hypocritical coming from a feminist, but considering you earn more than me you don’t have an excuse to be a cheapo.

  1. Don’t get drunk and hit on the waitress

So I am sitting at Chin Chin’s and this guy has already had three beers. Three beers were all it took for him to unwind and start checking out our waitress.  Although I was feeling uncomfortable, I ignored it because eating my favourite soft shell crab curry was more important.  As the waitress returned with his fourth drink he complimented her on her pretty hair.  The waitress awkwardly thanked him, but he continued to compliment her about pretty she looked and how her hair framed her face perfectly. At this stage I wasn’t alone in feeling uncomfortable, I could tell the waitress was feeling a little overwhelmed by his flirtatious niceties.  This was my cue to call him out on his behaviour, something which he denied, as little boys do. That was the first and the last time I saw him.  Being attracted to the opposite sex is natural but it does not have to be flaunted in front of your date, unless you’re trying to give them a reason to never see you again.

EPIDEMIC E-MAINTENANCE

FRIDAY

Mr X: “Hey you! Planning to go out at all this weekend?”

Miss Z: “Going out on Sunday for an early dinner and drink. You?”

Mr X: “Nice! Don’t know yet, maybe something tonight.”

Miss Z: “Fair enough, enjoy.”

Mr X: “Yeh, you too.”

Being the long weekend and having been dating Mr X for a month my girlfriend expected Mr X to spend time with her. It was rational and reasonable.  He had three days off and he had not made any solid plans, so why not take some time to replicate a scene of a romantic comedy for her? Except all she got was a measly “You too”.

Seriously? 

The skilled dating gamer would let it go, pretend not to care and dismiss it as his loss.  But my girlfriend’s ego was at stake.  The witch was lighting it aflame and she was ready to fire-fight that s*^t.

Miss Z: “Are you seriously not going to make an effort to see me this weekend?”

Mr X: “I don’t know if your attitude works with other guys but with me it doesn’t, it makes me think you’re unpleasable company.”

OH HELL NO!

NO HE DIDN’T!

Miss Z: “If you think I am unpleasable company I suggest you don’t waste your time.”

He made a vague apology and revived the situation by saying he’ll see her Sunday.

SUNDAY

It was late Sunday and there was no phone call, text, email or Facebook message in regards to their supposed Sunday night plans.  My girlfriend had accepted that the only way this Sunday date was going to happen was in her dreams, which involved her breaking his fingers so he have a legitimate reason to not get in contact.

6.45pm and there is a Snap Chat from Mr X.

Maybe this was a sign?

The picture consisted of alcohol bottles and a bag of weed, captioned: ‘It’s gonna be one of those nights’.

It was a sign alright. 

A sign that she was being e-maintained.

It was only at the start of this year that I became aware of this e-maintenance craze.  It seemed like everyone was doing it and everyone was having it done to them.  Blogger and writer Yashar Ali sums e- maintenance  up nicely “In order to keep women happy, women need to be maintained.   Men are socially conditioned to behave this way to prevent women from becoming hysterical.  In their mind, they are keeping her satisfied electronically with inconsistent, rapid and short bursts of texting which bared little or no substance”.

In a generation of indecisiveness, we have become obsessed with this idea of keeping our options open; of having multiple maybes rather than a definite yes. I would be lying if I denied my participation in the craze.  At one point I was enjoying e-maintaining two men.  It became evident quite quickly that I was not going to have a career in juggling.  I did the sensible thing and quit before I embarrassed myself and got fired from a job I didn’t really want in the first place.  Upon reflection I wonder why I felt the need to e-maintain and came up with a few plausible explanations:

  1. I didn’t want to put my eggs in one basket.  The logic was if one egg was off then at least I had another one I could crack open and poach.
  2. I wanted to eat my cake and have it too. I experimented with this idea and guess what? If you eat your cake, you eat your cake.  You just get left with some shitty crumbs.
  3. I thought I should show loyalty to my R’N’B roots and adopt that playa-playa lifestyle. Only Joe sang a song about how he didn’t “wanna be a playa no more” and I thought it be best if I took his advice.

E-maintenance was about having a back-up plan.  That if everything fails in the game of dating and love, you had someone to fall back on and someone you can continue playing the game with.  For me, the idea of e-maintaining and playing the game was too simplistic, immature and one directional.  It involved minimal effort and maximum expectancies.  You pay $2 for a meal that took $35 to create.  The entire problem with this e-maintenance epidemic is you fail to make any meaningful connection and commitment.  The mentality that you need a back-up plan already sets you up for failure: If you’re already thinking about it not working out, how can it work out?

E-maintenance was just as much about effort as it was about ego.  E-maintenance decreases the chance of direct rejection therefore minimalizing the bruising of the male ego.  If that was the case, is that why calling had been replaced by texting? To avoid direct rejection?  I dread dating a man that can only use his pretty little fingers to type a text rather than dial my number. If I am unable to hear your voice, I am unable to know you.  Regardless of such ideals, I went on a date with a guy who was obsessed with texting, almost as if he couldn’t exercise his fingers enough.  After a disastrous date my girlfriend called me out on it, “Honey, he e-maintained you.  He invested the lowest amount of effort and received a higher amount of return”.  Then there was the other side of the scope, how it made someone feel when they realised they were being e-maintained.  Vividly I recall the realisation that I was being e-maintained, my ego was deflated.  I felt like I was the runner up in a competition that I didn’t know I was even in.

I currently have a friend who is being e-maintained by a guy who has a girlfriend.  After months into their friendship, when my friend decided she had invested feelings, he surprised her with the “I have a girlfriend…” line.  Sensibly she did the right thing and distanced herself from him.  He must have taken this as her playing hard to get because he suddenly upped the ante on the e-maintenance.  There was a sudden surge of texts, the occasional phone call and request of catching up (one that he always backed out of last minute).  It was quite clear what he was doing.  He was queuing her and she was unconsciously lining up for take a ride on the rebound train.  She was engaged in a new phenomenon that is becoming more common in this non-committal world.  Yes I said it!  The world has become non-committal.  Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part, but in the world of non-committal e-maintenance the only way to survive is to be honest with your intentions, it’ll save you from headaches that’ll require popping a Panadol or two.

I’ll end with a little advice I got from a self-help book by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo: If he is e-maintaining you, then he is just not that into you. 

YOU’RE 30 AND STILL SINGLE? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?

I recently came across something on Facebook where a female posted “There is a reason why a girl is single after their 20’s, otherwise they would be taken”.

I am 25 and single. I have no intention of being in a committed relationship and know many women who feel the same. I find it extremely offensive that one would assume that it is because something is “wrong” with us; as if a defect in who we are is the reason why we’re single at a certain age rather than out of our own personal choice.

Being women of the 21st century I believe we possess a great amount of empowerment. However, I would like to clarify that empowerment is not abusing, bullying, humiliating or judging other women with stereotypical bullshit what is outdated and offensive. Empowerment is advocating, encouraging, respecting and being open-minded to the difference in women and accepting and applauding that difference without the need to critique or criticise. Empowerment is having enough confidence in yourself to not have to make someone feel inferior so you can feel superior.

Cheers to all the single ladies, cheers to all the ladies casually dating, cheers to the ladies who are engaged and cheers to the ladies who are married, cheers to the mothers, cheers to the divorced & cheers to the widowed- You’re all bloody fabulous!