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Modern psychology has a lot to say about loving yourself. It’s all over Oprah, Loose Women and every other female geared talk show out there. People are making a whole lot of money out of teaching people to love themselves. The self help section in Waterstone’s is expanding almost at the rate of inflation, and if there’s one profession that’s recession proof, it’s definitely therapy. (As well as selling weave. It hurts my heart to say that). There’s almost an unhealthy obsession with self esteem to the point that the fact that I don’t have enough self esteem, is making my self esteem lower.  “Why don’t I love myself? Shouldn’t I love myself more? Oprah said I should. Everyone else loves themselves…So if I don’t love myself there must be something wrong with me..Aaarrghh I’m so unlovable that even myself doesn’t love me! I need to see a therapist!”. You get my point.

Perversely, our rates of depression over the last 50 years have sky rocketed, more and more people are presenting to their doctors requesting anti depressants, and self harm seems to be an increasing problem amongst young people. There are a number of hypotheses for this  – maybe we are more comfortable in modern society about admitting that we’re unhappy so the rates of depression are actually the same, maybe the pressures of modern society are causing us to be more unhappy, or maybe we’ve had an unhealthy attitude shift.

I think it’s a combination of all three.

I think loving yourself is one of the hardest things to do. I’ve always been a person who masked my insecurities with arrogance, to the outside world I can be confident, even cocky at the worst of times, but how do you love yourself, when there are things about yourself you don’t like? And not even mildly dislike, but things that you actually, categorically hate. Your crooked teeth. Or personality traits that you know are rubbish. Or the way you snort when you laugh. Or your oversized nostrils. Or a bad temper.

Every one knows about the Golden Rule.  Jesus puts it like this “And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”.

Thy neighbour as thyself. There’s something pretty powerful about that. There’s something very challenging about that. My neighbour is the women who threaded my eyebrows today, and left one shorter than the other, and told me to pencil the remainder in, and I still paid her 4 pounds. (Yes, I’m still mad about that). My neighbour is the crack addict I see hanging around outside the Salvation Army shop at the bottom of my local high street. My neighbour is the girl who bullied me through primary school. My neighbour is the guy who opened the door for me and made my day (maybe chivalry is in resus, and not quite dead). My neighbour is my next door neighbour who told my Dad that he votes for UKIP because he thinks black people are lazy and should go back to their country. My neighbour is the guy who rejected me. My neighbour is my little brother.

I think we can love ourselves better when we love our neighbour, because our neighbour is imperfect. I think maybe God tells us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves because when we see our neighbours in their frail humanity and realise that we are the same as our neighbour, but we are still required to love them, then we can see that God still requires us to love ourselves even in our imperfections. He preludes this by telling us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. He’s hinting at something. You can only perfectly love what is is imperfect when you learn to love someone that is perfect. 

I don’t quite understand this myself, but I do know that the more I understand God’s perfection, the more forgiving I am of other people’s failures. Because I want to love as perfectly as he does, and I know that he loves imperfect me, and that empowers me to love my imperfect neighbour. I know it’s complicated, but I want to make it really simple.

I believe the secret to loving yourself is understanding that God doesn’t  ask anything of you that he has not offered himself –  He loves you with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. He requires you to love your neighbour as much as he loves you. And he requires you to love yourself as much as you love your neighbour. Knowing that, how can I have low self esteem?

 

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Erykah Badu is one of those singers who I would pre-order their new album without even listening to a single track, if only she would let go of the weird numerology stuff. I mean, I’m all for burning incense as much as the next chick with an afro, but add a couple of Egyptology symbols and references to ancestor worship and you’re left with me, rocking in a corner and crossing myself for protection. There’s one song of hers that I always like to sing as I’m hauling myself across Victoria station though… “Bag lady, you gon’ hurt your back, carrying all them bags like that..”. Now it’s supposed to be some kind of deep metaphor about emotional baggage, letting go of inner demons so you can be loved etc, but I’ve managed to reduce it to a literal cry for help. I hummed this softly a few months ago, as I practically crawled through crowds of rush hour yuppies, confused Chinese tourists and the general riff raff of London, hoping that at least one gentleman would see me with:

1)My extremely large suitcase

2)My tattered Primark overnight bag

3) My Sainsbury’s ‘oversized help the environment’ shopper

4) A Satchel

5) Another Sports Direct shopper…

And come to my aid. I hummed louder. I tried to look forlorn. I even tried imitating the ‘laboured breathing’ of the patients I had seen in the respiratory ward that week. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. In fact, I almost got knocked over by an rather overweight chap, who glowered at me as if to say “Get out of my way damsel in distress, can’t you see I’m in a rush?”.

As I struggled across the road to the bus stop, the wheel of my suitcase broke, but I bravely soldiered on, looking like an extra from D’jango, heavy laden and distraught. The one redeeming member of the male species was a tall, rather handsome man who helped me put my suitcase on the bus. Disarmed by his unexpected chivalry and good looks, I unwittingly dropped my Oyster card on the pavement and ended up paying £2.40. (I hate you Boris, I hate you).

I give you this rather long winded tale, to tell you that chivalry is dead. I don’t know who murdered it, but I have my suspects. Some feminist got overexcited burning her bra around 1964, and decided to throw chivalry into the fire as well. I want chivalry back, and I also want La Senza to start stocking my size. (Cheers, for the whole equal pay thing though ‘preciate that. No, seriously, my overdraft thanks you)

On a serious note, I feel like this lack of gentlemanly behaviour is simply a retaliation from men, a petulant act of defiance because they’ve been forced to start attempting (note ‘attempting’) to treat us equally. Just because you can no longer pay us in pints of milk and apron fabric for doing the same job as you, does not mean you can’t open a door. In fact, women are doing a lot of the things they were doing 50 years ago, they just now have a 9 to 5 job to add to the mix. Most of the women I know are still the primary cooks, cleaners, child carers etc for their household, and do this while working FULL time. Men complain that the feminist movement has ruined it for them, but actually I think they’ve profited quite nicely from it.

The institution of marriage has been belittled and pretty much destroyed to the point where men know they can get the milk for free without even putting a down payment on an udder, let alone the actual cow. A 21’st century woman will – cook for you, clean for you, sleep with you, and bear you children, with no guarantee of commitment apart from a vague inclination you gave over coffee a couple of weeks ago. Frankly, it’s ridiculous.

And the backlash to this is that men hold their hands up and say “Fine, if you’re so independent and can do everything a man can do, then I will leave a 5 ft 2 puny woman to struggle with enough luggage to start a plane line, across London by herself”.

Let me be honest. I have a right to vote. I have a right to be paid as much as any man. I have a right to have access to the same opportunities he does. But….If we’re going to go the whole way, let’s go the whole way! If men want to drop chivalry, then they should stop saying things like ‘I only want a woman who can cook’. If you don’t want to operate under traditional gender roles, then why should I? If you’re bringing home all the veggie bacon, I’m happy to cook all of it, but don’t bring home 30% and then expect me to cook 100%. I might choose to do that if I love you, but how have we got to this crazy situation where women are supposed to do all the things men have traditionally done without men adopting any of the traditional female responsibilities?

You can open a door for me, I can cook you a meal, and we can both get paid the same amount for doing the same job. Is that too much to ask? Is it too much to ask that someone who is a foot taller than me and almost 100 pounds heavier help me carry something? That doesn’t mean I’m inferior, it just means that there’s some things you can do, that I can’t do, and we both need each other.

P.s. And to that guy on the Piccadilly line who bumped me out of the way to get a seat. You only got that seat because I was caught off guard. You don’t know ’bout Pilates….my quadriceps are a force to be reckoned with.

What do you guys think? Is chivalry dead? Should we dance on it’s grave, or try to resurrect it?

ImageI must admit, I was a little bit disappointed when I heard through the media grapevine the name of the newest member of the Royal Family. I hadn’t really expected anything too exciting – after all Will and Kate aren’t exactly poster children for their quirky style and radical departure from the status quo. Contrary to what the Daily Mail would have you believe, marrying a woman who spent most of her formative years in the most prestigious private boarding schools in the country, and whose parents are multi millionaires is NOT marrying a ‘commoner’. Neither is shopping at Reiss one step towards a Bolshevik revolution, Kate. Once you’re caught wearing a polyurethane Primark handbag, then you’re really down with the peeps. (Harry, if you want to be really radical – call me. I’m black. And I went to a private day school a half hour drive from Peckham. Now that’s marrying a commoner..)

So the Prince and his commoner Duchess decided to be as pedestrian as Oxford Street, and call their first child… George. Personally, I was rooting for something would show that they were trying to bond with the working class during this period of austerity – maybe Tyler or Conner – you know, recession style chic? Almost like the Queen knitting socks for soldiers during the war. Alas, it was not to be. To be fair to Will, he’d already gone far enough marrying Kate, and he probably didn’t want to condemn his unfortunate mongrel offspring to a lifetime of ridicule from his pure bred cousins.

So what’s in a name? A lot apparently. Katie Hopkins (of Apprentice fame) came under fire recently for saying she wouldn’t want her children to play with kids called Chantelle, Chardonnay, Tyler or Charmaine. She said “For me, a name is a shortcut of finding out what class a child comes from and makes me ask: “Do I want my children to play with them?” Now at face value, her comment is ridiculous, classist and egregious. (Google egregious – it’s a great word, I didn’t know what it meant till a couple days ago). But when I thought about it I realised that unfortunately, although I am a textbook Guardian reading left winging (most of the time) liberal, I slightly understand where she’s coming from.

When I was doing my Obs and Gynae (Mums and Babies and Women’s bits) block at uni, there was definitely a correlation between the social class of the mother and the name she gave the baby. Middle class stay at home Mums who have home births and shop at Waitrose, just don’t call their children Tyler. They might give him a ridiculous name like Tarquin. Hippy vegan Mums who do yoga instead of using an epidural are likely to name their children after a numerical value (Seven), a piece of fruit (Apple), or an element (Flame, Sky etc). ‘Afrocentric’ type Mums who are secretly snobby (me), will not call their first born son De’Andre, but definitely won’t hesitate to call him Oluwafemi. I do make judgements on people based on their names. Sure, my judgements are usually mild, and easily dispelled, but I do all the same. If your name is Septimus, I will assume that you are an upper middle class snob devoid of a sense of reality. I’ll still be polite to you though. Likewise, I’ve never envisaged bringing home someone called Tyrone and introducing him to my parents as my fiance. Which is actually ridiculous, because the one Tyrone I know is a perfectly upstanding member of society, devoid of cornrows and a criminal record. Before him, I didn’t personally know any Tyrone’s’, so it was nonsensical for me to make any judgement… but I did.

This is definitely a problem, but unfortunately a reality, and Apprentice woman is maybe just saying what too many of us are too cowardly to admit. Black people are especially notorious for making fun of ‘ghetto’ names because they’re ‘made up’ names. Clearly,  after a two second examination, this is a stupid argument, because all names are made up names. Duh. It’s really just the black middle class being embarrassed of the black working class and wanting to disassociate ourselves from them as much as possible.

There’s only one solution to this…we need to de-stigmatise these names. Make a pact with me on this day, that at least one of your children will be given a ghetto fabulous or common name. If you’re white, be double daring and call your son Jermaine. Then send him to Durham to study History of Art. If you’re proudly working class, call your son Benedict- yeah that’s right – make that name common as mud.  Perhaps I should call my daughter Bonquisha. She’ll go to Oxford, study PPE and be the first black female Prime Minister. Take that Katie Hopkins.

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It’s 2013. In order for you to function in the workplace you should pretend not to be racist, even if you are a little bit. (Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me…you’ve got nothing against them, it’s just that British jobs should go to British people first. I understand).  Maybe you’ve got yourself in a bit of bother saying something a little bit offensive at work. Which is understandable. Everything’s changing so fast…I mean what is the terminology now? 50 years ago it was Coloured then some time around 1982 they wanted to  be called Black, now it’s African Caribbean. Bleeding Nora, what a kerfuffle!

Here are my top five things not to say to your black colleague to keep you out of trouble. You can thank me by sending any unfinished bottles of Reggae Reggae sauce to my uni address. Cheers.

1) “Are you the Somalian translator?”

I know you’re a nurse, and that therefore life is hard. You’re the angels of the NHS. You’re overworked and underpaid. You see people’s poo everyday and wipe the snot from their nose, and all the thanks you get is a snarky little F1, fresh out of medical school messing up all your drips and overprescribing morphine. However, you still have time between shifts to go to Specsavers. Don’t ask a final year medical student of Jamaican parentage who turns up on the wards if they’re the Somalian translator. The Somalian translator knows who they are – when they get to the ward, they will present themselves to you. Many thanks.

2) “You’re so well spoken!”

Contrary to your sub-nutritional media diet of Top Boy and that dodgy So Solid Crew single you bought when you were 11, there are black folk who aren’t called Trevor McDonald who speak English. There are schools in Peckham, I promise.

3)”Can I touch your hair?” (whilst putting your hand in their hair).

If you really want to, then… Ask. Wait. Then touch. Or perhaps, Ask. Wait. Then don’t touch. I’m not your pet dog. My name is not Bingo. You are not Postman Pat. I am not your black and white cat.

4) “I have a friend from Uganda! She kinda looks like you…”

This is not a way to make friends with me. I’ve never been to Uganda. I don’t know anyone from Uganda. Uganda isn’t in the Caribbean. If you’re going to take a random stab at a country for your new black co worker to bond with you on, at least pick Nigeria. There’s lots of them about. You might get lucky.

5) “You’re Jamaican…I just love Jerk chicken! It’s so moist…”

I’m vegetarian. This isn’t really racist. It’s just annoying.I don’t tell all the new Chinese people I meet that I like noodles. Neither do I tell all the new Indian or Pakistani people I meet that I love curry. It’s just kinda….weird.Once you’ve been friends with someone for a while though, feel free to ask them for their jerk chicken recipe. After all, that’s what friends are for!

Oh let me add in a bonus one..

6) “You’re vegetarian? But I thought all black people liked chicken.”

This was said to me. By an Asian. I have no commentary.

I’ll just end by quoting Dave Chappelle… “All these years, I thought I liked chicken cause it was delicious; but turns out, I’m genetically predisposed to liking chicken!”

Peace guys 🙂

Disclaimer: This is all in jest. But many a true word is said in jest….just jesting!

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Sometimes I feel my life is like Jazz. I’m improvising, but the real musician understands the art behind it all and there is method to His madness. I wrote a poem about it. There’s a really interesting book by Donald Miler called Blue Like Jazz that talks about that..and it inspired this poem.

Blue Like Jazz

The chords come 

Frenzied

Purposeful

Scat scat layered

Over

tap taps

Hi hats and horns

I cannot explain

the soar of my spirit

The groan of my soul

the fly and turn and drop of 

dance

How swells and crescendos

Diminish to low tones

Seek to resolve

In soft moans

Uttered in um’s and uh huh’s

Soul talking

Spirit moving

Unwritten music

Blue Like Jazz