pauline

Pauline looking vex. (www.mirror.co.uk)

It’s Valentines day and in the words of Catherine Tate, I aint’ bothered. I do however, love a good love story. I do also love an awkward love story, even if it ends in failure. Actually, I love watching awkwardness in any situation.

Which brings me to this First Dates clip that has gone viral. First Dates is a TV show where they film people having blind first dates – I guess the title is fairly self-explanatory. I’ll tell the story for those of you who haven’t watched it. Are you sitting comfortably?

It’s the end of the date. Aunty Pauline is sitting there on national television, her grey afro looking tight because she made sure she had a shape up and creamed her foot before she came to the date. Because she has broughtupsy (that’s a Jamaican word for manners and home training). Someone’s ashy Uncle (we’ll call him Errol) is sitting across from her. Bubbly waitress walks over and hands Errol the bill,  with a smile of course. He looks at the bill, raises his eyebrows and says with a snort “I ain’t got this” (because he has no broughtupsy). Aunty Pauline smiles and raises her eyebrows. Waitress looks at both of them like “Giirrllll, I can’t”, and leaves them to sort out this relational disaster. Errol then says, “So we’re going dutch right?”. Fair enough. Pay day hasn’t happened yet. She smiles again, in shock, but puts some money on the table and says “Is that enough?”. This mess of manliness peers over the table and then proceeds to use the good oxygen God has created to give us life and strength to say “Hmm…put another tenner in”.

If your mouth has dropped open at this , close it quick before the horseflies catch your tongue.

I don’t know what happened after that, but all I know is that if I had been sitting across from Uncle, the story wouldn’t even have got that far. This would have been the scenario:

Him: “I ain’t got this”.

Me: “That’s unfortunate”.

Him: “Are we going Dutch then?”

Me: “Sure. Here you go. It was nice to have met you”.

I would have then proceeded to leave the restaurant. There would have been no time for an extra tenner, fiver, or even another goodbye.

The end.

I fail to understand why she didn’t tell him about his life  and everything that was disastrous about it there and then. He needed it. Some people can’t understand why this is an outrage. Feminism, equality, you guys wanted equal rights now you have them, why should he pay if he wasn’t feeling her, maybe he didn’t like her afro bla bla to the blaaddy bla. You’re all missing the point.

It’s not even the fact that he tried to split the bill live on national television. I’m sure men before him have done it and I’m sure men after him will. It’s the way he did it.

I’ll very plainly state that I, girlwiththafro, girlwiththabraids, girlwiththaweave, girlwiththebougieattitude, whatever you wanna call me,  will not, shall not, have never, and does not intend to, go halves on a first date. I’ve always offered to out of politeness, but I’ve always expected the man to decline my offer and he always has. That’s because in my fairly conservative Christian circle ‘dating’ doesn’t tend to follow the same pattern as one might expect for the average 20-something.  So because I tend to date men who have the same ideals as me about gender roles I don’t ever really envisage a situation where a man would expect me to go halves on the first date. If in some strange alternative universe it did happen, I would smile politely and pay, but he would never get a second date.

The rules are very simple and very fair. They aren’t biased against men in the slightest. Whoever asks for the date pays for the date.It’s basic etiquette. If you’re a woman and you’re in the habit of asking men out on dates, then don’t be mad when he expects to split the bill. I don’t know if you should even be mad if he expects you to pay for it all  (although most people’s ideas of gender roles would  mean that he would probably at least offer to split). Therefore, if a man asks you out on the date  then he should pay. Regardless of whether he doesn’t like your ombre weave, or thought you were more boring in person or thinks your breath is a little funky. If you can’t afford to date, stay in your yard and play chess with your friends or pull out your inner artist and get creative. Picnics in Hyde Park are free.

For the sake of argument though, this was a blind date. He didn’t initiate or pursue this woman, he was just set up with her by some person at Channel 4. IF he was the kind of man I appreciate, he would have paid for the date despite the fact that it was a blind date or despite the fact that it didn’t go well. But he wasn’t. It still could have played out very differently. Firstly, before he got the bill he could have said ” Are you happy to split the bill?”, as the waitress was getting it. He would still have been a cheapskate in my eyes, but not as ashy a cheapskate. Then, when he got the bill, he could have simply looked at it like a normal person instead of acting like someone had asked him to pay his whole mortgage in one year. Then, when she put in her half and asked if it was enough, he could have been like ‘yeh, sure’.

Basically Errol wasn’t just a cheapskate, he was ashy about his cheapskateness. He had no broughtupsy. He’s the kind of man who expects you to give him some sugar him on the first date even though he’s only taken you to Nandos for a quarter chicken wing. Here is the basic lesson:

Avoid the Errols of this world, remember what your mother taught you about broughtupsy and make sure, like Pauline, your afro is always tight. Goodnight.

period meme

I remember in Year 5, everyone’s parents got a letter in the post. It was something along the lines of:

“Dear Mr and Mrs Girlwiththafro,

As part of the St Jude the Fields personal development lessons, we will be screening a short video on sexual health and reproduction called “The Facts of Life”. Please return the slip attached to the letter below to indicate whether or not you are happy for your child to attend….”.

My Mum being who she is had already given me her own version of “The Facts of Life” at least a year earlier and so I sat smugly through the video, content in my 10 year old mind that I was EXTREMELY mature and aware. The video to my recollection was a fairly benign animation and I don’t remember much, apart from that I was completely unprepared for the ensuing carnage that puberty would bring.

Things they don’t tell you about periods:

1)It’s more blood than you think.

So we know the average woman doesn’t actually lose that much blood, it’s actually really the lining of your uterus shedding. Who cares? It’s red. We’ve all had that awful feeling of standing up after a lecture, date or dinner party and feeling the sudden gush between your legs as your period  has suddenly decided it’s had a nice break, but now it’s time to get back to work. If you’re lucky, you’re prepared and you’ve got a pad, a tampon, or a mooncup to catch the evidence of the slaughter. If you’re unlucky, you’ve just ruined a pair of Boux Avenue polyester knickers. Again.

2) It can smell.

No, it’s not the back of a meat market, just Anna at the other end of the office isn’t changing her pad as frequently as she should. There’s a distinctive and rather gross smell that can associated with period-ing, especially if you use pads (MOONCUPS GUYS, MOONCUPS). The worst bit about the smell is that really, most of us don’t want everyone to know we’re bleeding. Again. Period smell is like a Honda Civic blaring old school garage music through Lewisham High Street at midday. You can’t miss it.

3) The pain is comparable to childbirth.

I’ve never, and may never give birth, but no one can convince me that the period pain I had in 2008 wasn’t as bad a childbirth. I was literally on the verge of taking a kitchen knife, carving my own uterus out, and then just lying there as I bled to death. It would have been a perfectly reasonable response. No one tells you that there are actual women, women all around us who have eventually had to have their wombs removed because their periods were so heavy and the pain is so bad. Nope, they just say “Isn’t it wonderful, you’re becoming a woman!!!”

4) Your hormones can literally ruin life.

I know women who just before their period, practically sink into depression. I’m not joking – lack of motivation, suicidal ideation, unable to perform normal day to day tasks. Some women go on oral contraception just so that their month isn’t at the mercy of their fluctuating hormones. I used to scoff at women who kept claiming that their PMS was the cause of their once monthly erratic behaviour – but now I’m more sympathetic. Recently I found myself sitting on my bed, eating popcorn, crying hysterically, then as it dawned on me that my period was starting in two days, laughing hysterically. Madness I tell you, madness.

5) You’re expected to just get on with it.

If you think everyone will be sympathetic to the fact that your womb is playing squash in your pelvis, and disintegrating through your vagina, think again. Your new boyfriend will be sympathetic for the first 4 months and then after that, he’ll disinterestedly bring you an Ibuprofen and a hot water bottle and go back to watching the football. Your colleagues at work might well be more caring, but it’s really just luck of the draw. Even if your period pain is worse than Mike Tyson repeatedly biting at your ear, no one is going to take kindly to you taking a day off every.single.month.

6) You can have great periods.

So I’ve spent a few hundred words trashing them, but for some lucky women, it’s possible to actually have great periods. I’ve started trying to be more grateful when my period comes. If you have regular, relatively pain free periods, be thankful! Many women don’t get that chance and it’s probably a sign that you’re healthy and your body is working exactly how it should. In fact, for some women changing their eating habits, losing weight and getting better sleep can actually transform their entire menstrual cycle. So if, you’re having bad periods, don’t give up, see your doctor, do your research, and see if there are things you can do to have a happier period. Every month you’re reminded (not so gently?) of the fact that you can bring new life into the world! Isn’t that kind of amazing? No? Ok.

Have I left anything out? What do they not tell you about periods when you’re younger?

 

burkini

I was up later than I should have been a couple of nights ago and I can no longer blame it on the disrupted sleep pattern my body was forced into by two night shifts a couple weeks back. It’s not the rota coordinator’s problem anymore, it’s all me. I’ve failed to self regulate and I find myself meandering into intemperance and insomnia more nights than is healthy. On this particular night, I had just finished watching a documentary on Donald Trump (will he become President, won’t he? Is this all a dream?)  with my dear old Dad, and casually flicked through the channels with the intention to head to bed. As I flicked, I came across 3 naked women, standing in booths, and another woman scrutinising their bodies as a presenter teased her, asking what she thought, who she liked best. I saw the title of the show, Naked Attraction. Ah, this was the show I had heard others talk about and had determined not to watch. The nudity wasn’t as shocking as the sheer banality of it all. Clearly, TV has run out of ideas. And when you’ve run out of ideas, naked women will generally keep the party going for a bit.

We’ve all seen nudity on screen, be that via an X rated site, a film or even an advert for washing up liquid. This generation of westerners is suffering from nudity fatigue – we’ve seen so much nakedness it no longer excites in the same way.  The existence of Naked Attraction is just one more story to add to the particular secular liberal narrative that wants us to believe that nudity (women’s in particular),  is sexually liberating.

France’s recent ban on the burkini, a modest swimsuit cleverly named to allude to the burqua, was met with astonishment and derision by many liberal media outlets.  It’s a shocking display of disregard for religious liberty. It polices women’s bodies. It makes Muslim women bear the burden for the atrocities committed by a few renegade terrorists who many Muslims would not even consider to share their faith. It’s oppressive. I agree with all these statements, but I wonder how we can separate the ban from the prevailing attitudes towards female bodies and sexual liberation that we have incubated in the West for the past 50 years, as if the two aren’t directly correlated.

The reason why the burkini is so ‘other’ is not merely becuase of the head covering although this is significant part of it. It’s also because of the idea of modesty and covering the female form that is such a stark contrast to our current social norms.

We live in an age where some women can propel themselves into fame and fortune sheerly off the back of sex tapes large bottoms and where women, (black women especially) with considerable musical talent often face overt and subtle pressure to act in an extremely sexual manner in order to achieve success. (I specified race because fuller figured black women who sing better than Adele and like her, aren’t overtly sexual, are not achieving her level of success, and yes, it’s at least partially a race thing).

Despite this being to my mind obviously oppressive, there is a relentless insistence from some sectors of society that these women are sexually liberated and concurrently, the subtle suggestion that modesty and covering are rooted in oppression. Although many liberal pundits in the wake of burkini will loudly proclaim that it’s a woman’s choice whether or not she dresses modestly, we have created a culture where uncovering is by design. Our fashion magazines, our shops, our advertisements and our media all propel us in a direction of nudity under the guise of freedom and despite declaring that we support women in whatever choices they make, we have created a culture that celebrates, orchestrates and rewards nudity. Is it any wonder then, that in our subconscious mind, the burkini is an assault on our ‘value system’? Could it be that despite condemning France for her actions, we have as a collective, played a part in facilitating an environment where to be modest is to be constantly othered?

Arguably, the situation in other countries that are less secular ,where women are forced to cover is far worse than what we currently have in the west. I would be the first to say I would much rather live in a country where I could be naked or burqua’d without retribution (and France is now excluded from this), but oppression is not always as bold as morality police and Taliban soldiers. Both societies have failed to reach a place where women’s bodies are not dissected for mass consumption, where women’s bodies are fully their own without the enduring threat of breaking under standards that are constantly placed on them without regard for their emotional, mental, even spiritual well being.

When I cannot walk into a high street shop and with ease find a dress that does not have a random hole cut into it, a thigh high split, or plunging cleavage, in a not-so-subtle way, I am being told how I should be as a woman. There are a thousands of items of clothing, but so few that allow me to not be forced to conform to the narrative that I a freer when I am less covered.

We may rightly condemn France but we are wrong if we do not examine how, maybe almost imperceptibly to some, we have all allowed this to happen.

bearded man

 

Every girl remembers when she started her period. I remember that it was one evening in 1st year of secondary school. As it dawned on me that it had finally arrived, I ran down the stairs admittedly filled with excitement, smug in the knowledge that I was now a ‘woman’. As I got to the bottom of the stairs I put on my cool pre teen slouch and turned into the front hall, where I caught my Dad coming from the kitchen. It didn’t occur to me that he couldn’t be the first person I could tell or that it would be weird. It was Dad. The same Dad who had fumbled my afro into two very loose and very messy pony puffs when my Mum had gone away for a work trip (that school day ended fairly traumatically with a kind hearted teacher braiding my hair with multi coloured elastic bands  to rescue me from the teasing of my classmates). The same Dad who picked me up from school most days because he finished work earlier than Mum. The same Dad who taught me how to ride a bike and who, equally scared of dogs as I am, pedalled furiously beside me when we got chased by a pitbull in the park. . Who helped with my maths homework. Who horrified my Mum by buying a £99 school rucksack in year 8 because it had a lifetime warranty ( I still have it, 14 years later).

And so, unable to hide my excitement any longer I blurted..”Dad, I started my period!”. He looked slightly panicked and I could see him trying to compose himself. This wasn’t on his list of things he’d have to do. “Erm…well..has your mother told you what to do?”. “Yes”. I replied. ‘And you’ve got all the stuff?” “Yes”. “Well, make sure you do everything she told you to do. Erm..and make sure you tell her when she gets home, she’ll be happy to hear”. I quickly learnt that the easiest way to get out of any trouble was to tell my dad his only daughter was on her period. “Dad, Shade hasn’t done the washing up!” “Leave your sister alone…she’s on her period”.

Whether it’s been starting periods, starting school, finishing university or my first break up, my Dad has always been the most reliable man in my life. That doesn’t mean our relationship has been perfect. Me and my Dad have fought, and we’ve fought hard. There were times I’ve cried and screamed and been angry enough to burst. But he has always been there. Like the ticking of the clock on my wall, he has been a constant that I have never questioned. Not once have I worried that I would come home and my Dad would not be there. There may have been times I wish he hadn’t been there, but there he was – stubborn and stoic in that old Jamaican way, and funny and full of life in a way that is unique to him.

And why is this special? I know so many people who have not had what should not be considered a luxury. I should not feel lucky to have a father that has consistently provided for me. He should not be congratulated for doing what is good and reasonable for a father to do, which is offer basic care for the children he produced. My Dad has gone above and beyond that, but in a community where fatherhood is sometimes seen as a casual extra that may or may not exist, he stands out.

I don’t want to add to the narrative that black fathers are bad fathers. As much as I can say that I know many people who didn’t have their biological father in their life, I probably just as many who did and some who had fathering from men who didn’t share the same genes as them. Half, isn’t good enough though. It’s not good enough that half of my friends had fathers who were consistently there and half didn’t. It’s not good enough that on Father’s Day, my Facebook timeline was flooded with people shouting out their Dads, but a large enough group of my friends were silent (and not because they don’t use Facebook like that).

Marriages end, couples split up and animosity brews. I understand that the woman you once loved may turn out to be someone you feel you have no respect for. Not everyone has chosen to do what my parents have done and brave the storms of marriage for 30 plus years. For some, they never had the option to choose to do the battle that is learning to love someone for life, sacrificing and being unselfish and remembering vows you made when it’s the only thing you have to hold on to. Life happens.

But whatever life does, fatherhood is never trivial. It is never unimportant. You will always matter to that little boy or little girl. Or 20 years later, that big boy or big girl. No matter what voices scream loudly that you are a bonus, an extra or even just dead weight, I believe that fathers, all fathers, black fathers are essential. I would not be the woman I am today had it not been for my Dad.

Some of you have incredible children who have managed to do impossibly beautiful things with their life despite your absence or inconsistency. You should be proud and ashamed. And you should know that it’s never too late to try. Some of you have been like my Dad – imperfect, faltering, human but persevering in your efforts to be fathers. And I thank you. #BlackDadsMatter

noy into you

I’m no authority on men or relationships having had fairly minimal experience with either, but I would say I’m a pretty good authority on unrequited love. I’ve had more than a couple crushes and ‘situationships’ which have ended with a lot of feelings on my side, and a couple ‘k cool’ text messages from their side.

My broken heart could have probably escaped with  a wee dent instead of being shattered with blunt force if only I had come to the realisation…he’s just not that into you.

Women especially, are professional love creators. We specialise in taking men with no love in their hearts for us, and using all the energy that could be spent on rock hard abs, a fantastic career and a relationship tighter with Jesus than all 12 of the disciples, on attempting to squeeze every ounce of non-affection from their souls.

The end result of this is wasted months, stress, a lot of kleenex and a complete rinsing of your thankfully, unlimited minutes on asking each of your friends in a million different ways why Jim-Bob just doesn’t seem to be giving you the attention you deserve.

My dear friend:Stop. Cease. Desist. Unhand the gentleman.

Shall I say it in patois for you? Him nuh want yuh

One thing men and woman both have in common though is that when we want someone, we show it.

Maybe not immediately. Sure, there’s the does -he-like-me, does-he-not stage  that can last varying amounts of time, but generally we’re pretty good at sending off signals. I could write an extensive list of signs that someone just isn’t into you, but there are two main signs:

  1. They don’t initiate contact. (Or in the case of many women, don’t accept contact)
  2. They don’t initiate commitment

That’s it. Simple. It all boils down to these two things – contact and commitment. Most men get to stage one and stop at stage two.

If he doesn’t text or call you and you’re always the one calling and texting – he’s not that into you. If he only calls or texts during unsavoury hours when Sam’s chicken and brothels are the only institutions open for business- he’s not that into you. If your phone calls last 10 minutes and the main point is clearly to warm you up enough so he can come over and get some sort of sexual intimacy – he’s not into you, he’s into getting into you. If she talks to you for 20 minutes and then ‘has to go’ Every.Single.Time – she’s just not that into you.If you disappear from the country, climb Everest, and 3 months later get a text saying ‘sup? you good?’. They’re just not that into you.If you’re in a relationship  and you have to beg him to check up on you once a week – no, it’s very unlikely that’s just his personality- he’s just not that into you. If he repeatedly cancels plans you make together to go out with friends/siblings/ his personal trainer and apologises profusely each time, but still cancels…guess what? He’s just not that into you. If she doesn’t pick up for 3 days at a time and doesn’t bother to  even text a ‘sorry I missed ya :-)’ text, then mate, she’s probably just not that into you.

Now on to commitment. Intimacy is the reward of commitment. And as intimacy grows so should commitment. Many of us have broken hearts because we give intimacy – be that emotional, sexual, mental without the appropriate level of commitment If you’ve been ‘talking’ for a year but there’s been no suggestion of a relationship, the odds are he’s just not that into you. If he/she says ‘I’m  focusing on my career right now’, then that may be a very true statement, but what’s also true is that they’re just not that into you. Because if they thought you were unmissable, they wouldn’t miss out on you. For my Christian folk – if you’ve been dating for 5 years, are both grown adults with a viable income and are ‘celibate’ but he still has not proposed, my friend, he’s just not that into you. Because no grown heterosexual man with a sex drive and a stable income needs 5 years to decide whether he wants to marry a woman and make attempts at procreating. Please be honest with yourself – if he wanted you to be his wife he would have asked by now.  If after 8 months of dating she doesn’t want to ‘tie herself down’ by actually having the title of girlfriend , she may fancy you , but really and truly, she’s just not THAT into you. If they break up with you, guess what? They’re just not that into you. Regardless of whether they tell you you’re perfect and amazing – they’ve broken up with you. Massive hint. Pretty huge.

Sure there are exceptions to all of these, but if you’re reading this and thinking your boyfriend/emotional booty call/person you fancy is the exception then you’re probably wrong. And they’re probably not that into you. And you should grab yourself by the shoulders, believe that you’re worth it and trust that God has someone for you who actually IS that into you.

So  pick up the phone and (with dignity) bury that relationship that is already dead.

What do you think? How can you tell when someone’s not into you?