Like a good novel, the character must be multilayered with a narrative perfectly answering the needs of the new audience. Last weekend I went on a date with somebody I actually really liked. He took me to see superhero movie followed by a long walk. I haven’t heard from him since. I am suspecting my character wasn’t superhero enough. Some women are like coming of age sci-fi thriller, I am more like post-apocalyptic teenage novel.
The society set strict rules on personal expression and prefer idealised scenes from classical mythology to anything resembling real life. People are increasingly hard to please these days. The lack of patience and abundance of choice, men and women are on the mission to find the existential eden where every one is good looking, young and successful. Life is getting tad bit too intense, we want simpler storyline, lower budget and better actors.
Number of times while I was executing my own happily ever-after story, I asked why my character had to be in a therapy? Why is she an academic underachiever and why does she swear so much? Slowly I became my own antagonist. But then, on the second thought, world is a tough crowd to please. No matter how hard you try to be Carry Bradshaw, there will always be someone who prefers Samantha.
Many of people we meet, arrived in our lives by accident therefore there is every chance they would leave at any moment; it is crucial they should never be made to work hard, the more familiar the storyline and the character type, the better. My heroine realised just being isn’t dramatic enough: she needed to offer something special. I struggled to grasp the concept of special.
Should my character embark on a spiritual journey beyond the self? She should embrace her neurosis, inferiority complexes and any other non-pathologised disorders to connect to other characters. She should engage in self-destructive activities, join the sub-culture or at least become the part of any resistance movement. And all of this cleverly packaged under veneer of successful and beautiful new age empowered woman! Would that keep my date captivated for at least three dates, before I unload the really heavy stuff, like how I know lyrics to all Backstreet Boys songs? Probably, yeah….
It must be me. It was always me, I am needy, clingy, I have daddy issues, and I want to be literally handcuffed to the other person all the time. I know. That’s why I am single, that’s why men leg it so fast, they leave skid marks on the pavement and that’s the price every woman must pay in order to keep her marbles together in London. In the past month I was asked in total of three times, the same age old question – Why are you still single? and again and again I find myself making up reasons why I haven’t got that special one (as opposed to other ‘normal’ people). It’s a short leap from mental illness and unlike in medicine there is no pill from singleness, there isn’t a pill which would whisk all your flaws, they won’t prescribe you lobotomy and especially, they won’t hypnotise another person to love you.
There could be an algorithm to happiness, which is called online dating, but then can it calculate the divorce rate? Here’s the perfect match for you, you have 99% matches in music wine preferences, travels and books, however we strategically chose to not include points for neurosis, seasonal depression, bipolar tendencies, AADD, pathological lies, infidelity, fetiches and god knows what else that may come with the package. I have always believed the universe prepared a surprise for me in a form of digital prince charming until he failed to turn up to the date. That was a sign impossible to ignore.
People ask me, are my standards too high? Well, define standards. Surely nobody starts a relationship with an attitude: she/he is a 6 after 5 beers. Of course, there is certain expectation in the significant other, unless you have no expectations of yourself and you will go down with pretty much anything anyone throws your way. Is fitness, intelligence, income, and good looks classify as unattainable standards? Is attentiveness, generosity, honesty and respect a high standard? We set standards according to our own, so shouldn’t people be asking me instead if I have such high standards for myself? Live a bit, stop learning that fourth language, cancel your gym membership, take a pay cut, get fat. Can I have a relationship now? Probably not because numbers game is not an answer when searching for ‘the one’.
Is it me? Probably. Is that a problem? Probably not. Am I happy? Definitely yes. Thank you, stop asking why I am single.
Initially this post was going to be about the time when I got stood up on a date on last Saturday. Typically enough, these things happen to me because, well, I am not exactly sure why. Something else happened the following day which made the unfortunate event less important, if it ever had any importance. I lost my grandmother. It doesn’t find anywhere in the current context of this blog, but this is part of this lifetime, and it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever written.
Her life wasn’t easy. Grandmother always said – going through life isn’t the same as crossing the field – it’s a literal translation, it carried more profound meaning when it was said by her, in Russian. She was born in 1940 Russia when the hardships of war and post-war trauma was weighting heavily on the generation betrayed by the ruling class, the same class which was sent to be slaughtered by Stalin and his parasite huntsmen. The lack of faith in the future and bitter memory of the past was passed on with mothers’ milk to the youth which had no future other than mere survival inflamed by boredom, hard labour and alcoholism. Yet one thing which always remained untainted was love.
My grandmother had a tough start to her life. Being born into peasant family, she got married at the age of 17 to the love of her life, a handsome young man, my grandfather whom I never met. By the age of 25 she already had two young boys and an alcoholic husband. Alcohol, infidelity and violence was a shadow placed upon young woman’s life who didn’t know any better, in fact nobody knew any better, this was the characteristics of the era of the post war small Russian village. However love that she had for my grandfather soothed her existence over the years. Even after his death, she would often speak of him, the love of her life, Nikolay.
Widowed at the age of 33 she remained faithful to him till the end of her life. She lived alone in the remote town called Energetic, Orenburg. She’d come visit both of her sons for a few months every couple of years to look after her grandchildren. I remember her being incredibly stubborn and stern, sometimes clumsy and very protective of her sons which drove my mother mad, but she was also kind and unconditionally loved her grandchildren.
I also remember heated arguments I had with my mother who’d often compare me to grandmother. She criticised my adolescent bitterness, stubbornness and defiance as if it was an inherited flaw. I desperately tried to shake it off, only to realise years later that a so called flaw in character is a flaw my grandmother had no control over. Can you blame somebody for being born into a society which was destroyed and demoralised by war and poverty? A flaw which drove a desperate woman to find herself at the edge of the cliff with two young boys and as if by the same flaw she found her way back to the long lost faith in the future.
I treasure every bit of that flaw I have in me because I am the woman today because of this woman and I am sorry I will never be able to tell her that. I’m terribly sorry. I am sorry I haven’t seen her in more than ten years, I am terribly sorry I didn’t say ‘I love you my darling’ enough. She died in a care home alone, two days before her 77th birthday, far away from where she was born and lived all her life. She often spoke about how she wished to be buried next to her beloved Nikolay, I am sorry her wish didn’t come true. There aren’t enough sorries in the world to redeem the hard life she had. I only hope, that wherever she is right now, she’s at peace in the sweet embrace with the man she loved. R.I.P my darling. I will miss you forever.
Mountains is a pilgrimage destination for depressed, lost and bored. The silent whisper of the God’s most powerful incarnations is calling us from the distance, we need to get really high to hear it better, in a literal sense. I wasn’t depressed, but I was bored and thirsty for change. I was standing on the doorstep of the adulthood thinking Is this it? Now what? The city was deafening, there was less and less air left to breathe therefore I decided to leave the comfort of mild British winter and travel to the formidable climate of French Alps. Physical exhaustion, elements and the comfort of friendly bar in the presence of the familiar face is a combination resistant to any depression. There is no time to overanalyze, ponder or wallow, only time to act. Go down the slope, go up the slope and embrace raw and untamed power of nature.
The birthday weekend in Chamonix was definitely a change from the usual birthday destination Paris and to my surprise, it opened a new era of adventure which restored the justice to being an early January child. It may not be BBQ in the park, but what BBQ can compare to a glass of gluhwein on the top of Mont Blanc, figuratively speaking. I was wrong thinking that a 4 day trip to the ski resort can only result in a moderate amount of fun and holiday romance is only possible in the backdrop fiery sunsets and bikinis, it’s just as likely to happen in the backdrop of snowstorms and thermal undergarments.
Chamonix is reminiscent of an international summer camp abroad. You may want to meet new people but language barrier reduces the experience to making out in the local night club. I did that 15 years ago in Italy, yet today not much has changed, I was still making out in the corner of the club with a guy who hardly spoke any english. And yet, before I turned 30, I was anticipating a visit from the elusive lady called Maturity, which despite my best hopes, remained a no show. Today, I hear, growing up is becoming notoriously unfashionable amongst millennial crowd, and while I am still not entirely sure what generational label I was prescribed, I’ll just chose what suits me the best – do whatever fuck I want.
The crowd in Chamonix is close to the crowd of Marbella, predominantly english yet not overwhelmingly embarrassing. Stag do’s, company’s all-lads debauched ski trips, fathers and sons bonding holiday, and what do you know, British Army. Women however, were in the minority which wasn’t completely bad news for me, although towards the end of the trip I was practicing my biblical eye-roll every time a middle aged bolding John tried to find out where is the best place to hang out or asking where my accent was from. There were also the likes of married Eliots who shamelessly paraded his wedding band while trying to give me a neck massage, Martins from Morrisons who’s young age was his only excuse, unfortunately not great enough to overcompensate his lack of the game skills (if any), there were young British soldiers Gilberts who just turned 20 and already wanted to marry me.
Chamonix is an easy place to lose your sense of age. In Chamonix age becomes an illusion, both in philosophical and practical terms. I felt it especially strong when I was taking my first ever ski lesson next to a string of 5 year olds who were kicking my ass while I struggled to keep my skis in parallel. Children make everything look so easy. Was it the smell of burning log, mountain air, chalet style huts or sheepskins, but being in the mountains makes you feel alive on so many levels. Playfulness definitely presides in the air along with memory of long gone days when climate warming was still a science fiction and our Christmases were white. Nothing is off limits in Chamonix as long as you stay warm and open minded. The friendliness of locals and optimism of seasonaires makes you feel home away from home. If I arrived feeling a little bit off piste, I left Chamonix feeling on top.
Christmas time is probably the most extreme time of the year in terms of almost non-existent self-control accessorized with even less existent self reflection. I must have read a sad statistic somewhere once, probably in one of those pseudo scientific guardian articles on Facebook that the most relationships break in December, effectively me being the best example, while my friend told me a story how she got together with her ex just so she had somebody to cuddle up with on cold December nights. The idea appeared to be tempting, however I had to be realistic and question myself, even if there was a chance in hell of me bringing somebody out of the wood work, was I willing to go through 9 circles I got away from? I didn’t think so.
The thought of being alone on Christmas, yet again, seemed more unsettling this year than any other year. Perhaps it’s due to the inevitability of my 30th birthday in January, I naturally analyse things with rigorous forensic attention to detail – I don’t cut myself any slack and I even find it especially hard to entertain the possibility of any sort of harmless one night stands, because, like everything else, it no longer serves as a thrill, but a tedious obligation to your twenties, usually fuelled by alcohol and gaps in the judgement. I would much rather prefer waking up in the comfort of my own bed and weekend newspaper, than waking up to a stranger, regret and unresponded text message. This is the hell of my own making.
Medieval torture hangovers and puffy face are just a small reminders that I can no longer party like it’s 1999 and neither can I keep up with ever changing women beauty standards, credit card bills, pay gap, brexit, men chasing skirts, men wanting casual sex, men not being able to call women any more, tinder, bumble, grindr. Fair to say, I grew tired and cynical, and festive spirit hasn’t made an appearance just yet. The Christmas party glass is never quite half empty. I no longer believe in Santa Claus, but I believe in Christmas spirits – vodka, gin and brandy. Each of them have shown me the side of myself I wish to forget. This Dickensian fantasy is no more fictional than a drunken snog with your work colleague – it happened, but nobody speaks about it.
The confession of the day is my world is suffering from vitamin and romance deficiency. My shrink said to me couple of months ago I need to stop being naive: the dating pool is getting shallower and I am not getting any younger, if I don’t make the single men train, soon I will be making home wrecker, divorcee and midlife crisis train. But she was wrong. It’s not the pool that’s getting shallower, it’s us, who are scraping the bottom of the mulled wine bottle.We shed a tear at Christmas ad, now we go and get drunk on festive eggnog cocktail, skimming over the fact that there is no-one waiting for us at home.
Traveling is both an agony and the ecstasy. Everything is a pain in the arse until you get to your destination, and once you get there – everything is rainbows and unicorns. Last week I set off to explore Cote D’Azur. I desperately needed a break on my own – an escape to a fantasy land where every step has a potential to grow into adventure of a life time. Being a francophile as much as I am there was no need to wreck my brain about which destination to go for.
Early on Wednesday morning, I kissed the moody London goodbye and jumped on a plane to Nice. Only a short sleep later, I woke up to the most beautiful dream I ever seen. Recent weeks in London weren’t the best weeks I had since arriving in UK ten years ago. With the impeding gloom and doom of brexit which was progressively getting worse with each news headline, it was effectively completed with perpetual rain which was affecting me on the emotional level. This trip was so overdue, I was ready to run away.
Mediterranean air instantly brought me back to life. I craved for nothing else than to stretch out on the beach and forget about everything that burdened me over the past six months. Like a new born baby, I baptised myself in the Mediterranean sea, smeared some sun lotion and reborn as a pilgrim on the journey for inner peace and fulfilment. I had six days of freedom and I was going to use them to the max potential.
Like any brit tourist who hasn’t seen the sun for the past 100 years, I was doomed to get coup de soleil within first 3 days of my beach session. I also granted myself a permission to do two things which I rarely allow myself in London – smoke and drink to an excess which came naturally in Nice since smoking and drinking wine even in AM hours was a conventional thing to do. Long walks around the city, the promenade, the train journeys along cote d’Azur were soothing.No wonder this region was favourited by worlds elite and royalty over the decades. It’s picturesque landscapes and vast horizons became synonymous with happiness and good life. It has a certain quality of indulgence, a permission to celebrate each day as a gift, rather than living in struggle hoping for the better times ahead. Living in a moment has never been easier, better yet, it was inescapable.
Of course, I was aware of my budget and I could not deny the fact that in order to live the life of fairy tale which is so beautifully advertised on instagram, you must be wealthy. Wealth is another synonym of cote d’Azur. It’s hard to be oblivious of it because it’s stares you directly in the face where ever you go. Luxurious hotels, cars, yachts, designer shops, restaurants, fancy dames with pampered pooches, villas with private swimming pools – all makes a fantastic parallel universe which is equally attainable and lightyears away for ordinary human beings. Yet I have never been to a place which would motivate me more to pursue the good life, to follow my dreams and to make cardinal life changes. And I wasn’t the only one.
There are always two sides of the coin. I was always susceptible to harsh truth which I still greeted with pragmatism. While I was feeling completely free and independent enjoying this trip alone, I had to endurea certain level of abuse which was totally underserved on my part. Not many people will relate to this because majority of people don’t travel alone, but I felt constantly subjected to a judgement which only a young woman can be subjected to on the occasion. I discovered that people in Cote d’Azur have a rather savage perspective on female travellers, especially if they arrive unaccompanied. In my case, I was constantly seen as a prostitute which was at first infuriating to the point I wanted to hide in my room just so I don’t have to explain another man I don’t wish to have his home address or pretend I didn’t hear how group of guys just called me une pute. Must say, you do get used to it after a while.
While I never had to face this type of judgement while living in London since the concept of the prostitute can only be applied to women in west end night clubs, a guy I met in Nice explained to me that south of France, especially places like Monaco and Cannes, is a magnet for women looking to gnaw the piece of that cosmic wealth accumulated in the region. C’est terrible after dark. Meeting a wealthy man is an aspiration for many women and while the cinderella phenomenon was possible few decades ago before dating apps came into place, now it’s so rare, it’s practically impossible. However it doesn’t stop flocks of young Eastern European women from traveling to Monaco looking for a better life.
This realisation repealed me from even entertaining the idea of meeting the prince charming with a yacht on this holiday. Even if I could compete with model looking courtesans, I would be seen too unsophisticated in my appearance and attitude, leave alone my hostility towards this exchange economy. What I saw instead, under the veneer of endless luxury and sophistication, lies rotting culture of exploitation and objectification. I stayed walking around Monaco until the dusk and left right before, once I again I was subjected to further abuse.
Cote d’Azur still puts me in a dream like state. If you choose to close your eyes on everything what happens in the privacy of luxury apartments, you will witness the beauty of the landscape, joyful holiday makers, and never-ending celebration of life which is so appealing to people around the world. I came back refreshed and full of ambition which I never had before. I am not the one to demonise the wealth, it’s not the money that’s bad, it’s what you can do with it. Princess, Grace of Monaco is a wonderful story indeed which is still being seen as the greatest cinderella story there ever was, but in the changing world we must look for new stories. Stories where women are able of creating their own fairy tales by creating a dream life for themselves without having to sacrifice their ambition or dignity. Until next time, Côte d’Azur! Merci and à bientôt!
This post was written day before tragic events in Nice this Thursday so please don’t treat it as insensitive. I was still deeply in my holiday mode when I heard the news. I am experiencing immense sadness and regret for all the lives lost. The fact that was walking down the promenade des Anglais only two days ago was the closest I have ever been to a tragedy. Every one I met on this trip are safe and sound. #prayfortheworld
After yet another long break, I am back with a new post about Paris. So yes, I am obsessed with this city! Paris is the city of my dreams and I take it in with all it’s poverty and flamboyance, arrogance and sensuality, and let’s just throw in a dash sleaziness for the good measure.
Couple of weekends ago my friends and I, yet again, jumped on the train and traveled to the city of love. We had 4 fabulous days ahead of us, full of great events and lots and lots of wine. Although I have been making little Paris trips every few months, I never really experienced Parisian night life. Except may be that one time when I tried to go home with a Belgian equivalent of Spartacus, which happened to be a total fiasco on my part as he decided not to get involved in a dysfunctional ménage à trois with me and my friend, calling it the act respect to my male friend as opposed to blinding rejection. Anyway, new year – new me. This time I finally got to go out in a chat friendly environment where I felt my french was strong enough to introduce myself at the very least.
Saturday night was the opening of the club night season at the l’ Opera Garner restaurant La Boumette. Hello glam of my life! The event itself was organised through a french version of the meet up. To this day I still don’t know whether we walked into a mingling event or was it a pure coincidence we were mobbed by four parisian guys within minutes. The event was held sur le ciel du Paris in a fashionable L’Opera area.
Parisian events are slightly different to London. You still have your mixture of rich arabs and their blond bombshells girlfriends, but you also get creme de la creme of the parisian style front runners who look like they have just stepped down from the Montblanc ad campaign – perfectly groomed, sleek looking and of course, the look wouldn’t be complete without vintage tortoise shell frames. They all look equally nonchalant and self aware at the same time, which was incredibly pretentious and sexy. Perhaps parisian social scene hasn’t moved far from 19th century Dandyism which has always put image ahead of morals, the scene inspired Baudelaire himself.
Of course, I didn’t get to meet any of these classy guys that night. As it usually happens, there was another type of men who prefer to overcompensate their absence of creativity with pushy enthusiasm and sleazy confidence which cannot be combated with anything except for a change of location. Efficient yet very impractical. These guys don’t wait around bombarding you with subtle hints, they go straight in for the kill, latching onto any possible flare of interest or mere politeness to spark the proverbial flame of passion. It was like a romancing the stone on my part. Despite my best efforts of assuming the role of cock block in vain hope I may have a chance to have a great night with the girls, I lost the battle to the latter group.
Despite all that drama, what is refreshing about parisian men, however, is you can have a pretty decent conversation, which can be both a fun banter and an existential debate. I got relatively lucky with one of guys at the party. Ryan was a half french half Arabic blue eyed blond hair mec who had quality flirting skills, who also introduced himself as a stripper for Chippendale. It wasn’t hard to believe because he certainly had the body for it. After 10 minutes of conversation and vivid x rated fantasies (taking place exclusively in my head!), he finally announced he works in marketing which left me both aroused and furious, but I didn’t mind to be played like this at all. As the night was getting busier, I found myself talking to new men who were all equally interested in me. If it wasn’t the dating event after all, I would definitely say, in Paris, we were more popular than a kebab place on Saturday night. I was on fire! Trailblazing across the room, feeling fabulous. All a gal need to shine is a guys attention.
This may as well be a parisian thing. And just as other parisian things I like, I like the straight forwardness and confidence which parisian guys have. British guys may have a great sense of humor (which is a truly great advantage), but when it comes to making a move, it’s usually so subtle, almost like a metaphorical dog whistle perceived only by a certain type of women, if any at all.
Parisian sensuality felt like a breath of fresh air. In a modern world, plagued by extreme feminism, seduction has become closeted part of romantic interaction to the point where men decided to skip it all together. Of course, french guys don’t linger too long on platonic chit chat either and they don’t call if french banter after all. It wasn’t really my intention to meet anyone that night because I only had 2 days left in Paris and I wanted to spend them wandering the streets, drinking wine and daydreaming about how one day I book my one way ticket to Paris.