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Friday, 24 November 2017

THANK YOU


I have lived abroad for a long time - a very long time. So long in fact that I use funny words like petrol and rubbish, spell many words with an s instead of a z (realise!), and am often accused of having “an accent” whenever I return to the States. My response: I have a sponge-like musical ear, what can I tell you? Twenty minutes in the deep South and I start sounding like Scarlett O’Hara.

Of course once the King came along, my Anglophile ways increased three-fold.  It got so bad, I started saying tom(ah)to and ban(ah)na, as the King was developing this weird hybrid accent and my husband was having a heart attack.  And yes, this also means that my knowledge of the American holiday schedule has gone out the window. The other day, an American mother asked the King what he was doing for Thanksgiving and he looked at her blankly and said, “What’s that?” Of course I got a look of horror from the mother as if I had set the flag on fire.

In my defence, I live here. My husband is British and we celebrate British holidays (why, hello bank holidays, so good to meet you). Furthermore, I am a totally average cook (I used to call dinner anything I could spoon from a can, so I've come a long way, baby) and the thought of whipping up some pumpkin infused extravaganza frightens the heck out of me. Not to mention, if one looks at the origin of the Thanksgiving 'celebration', well it is more of a reminder of our extremely violent, colonial history that I can't manage to digest (sorry Native Americans)!  Now, on the basis of having a day to be thankful, well, let’s just say, I’m trying to instill that philosophy every day (am I off the Thanksgiving hook yet?)

As you can imagine, in a big city, once you spill out your front door it is impossible not to see something you’re thankful for. Or shall I say, there is always something that reminds you that what you currently have is pretty darn incredible. In fact, it’s teetering on luxury... Only three people living in your flat? Yeehah! No mold or moths in the cupboard? Break out the champagne! Transport running on time and you can manage to feed your family and not go broke, it's time to party!!

Just this morning (thank you coffee) as we rode to school on the bus (thank you for a seat, bus god), I pointed out to the King that a man was sleeping under a sheet of plastic in the park. The King took one look at me and thought, “oh how I am grateful I have a bed.”  You see, city living is reality at it’s most glaring. Makes you pretty darn thankful for your boiler and four walls. 

I’m also keen on trying to find little things on a daily basis to be thankful for… for example, when the King sleeps past 5:45 (a.m); when my husband and son actually make it into the toilet bowl (as opposed to peeing on the floor); when I wake up in the morning and I don’t look 85 years old; when people actually pick up their dog excrement on the street (OOOOOH thank you); when the sun manages to make an appearance at least once during the day...  and when the orange-infused POTUS hasn't managed to get us all killed. See, little thank you’s that pepper the day, they're out there you just have to pay attention.

As for the big things, I shall happily mark the fourth Thursday in the month of November to remind the King that at least once a year we should be profoundly grateful. We’re healthy, we’re happy, (He’s hungry… he wanted me to add that in), we live in a vibrant city, want for very little and we are surrounded by love, friendship and a boatLOAD of Lego (Ahem, the King’s addition again)… I also had 45 years with my sweet, elegant mother before she passed away, and I got to tell her I loved her... so there’s that. And in my book, that's a big thank you. 


Alas, the King may not know what pumpkin pie tastes like (or a food hangover on the following Friday) but he certainly knows that there is a world out there and I’m damn thankful he’s in it.

Friday, 10 November 2017

WHAT'S IN A NAME?


I was trying to explain to the King the other day why women change their names when they marry; as expected, it was not as straightforward as one would think. Then again, to me, his confusion made perfect sense.

I was speaking of a friend of mine but used her married name. As he only knew her by her maiden name he asked who I was talking about. I explained and then he aptly asked, “Why does she have two names?” I told him that when some women get married they take their husband's surname. He looked at me and said, “But they already have a name?” (Exactly)… I then said, "Well... some women like to take their husband’s name after the wedding, to show… um, that they are one." (See, I have a hard time even explaining this to my son as I don’t understand the (modern day) need to do this either). The King then of course asked me if men take women’s names. And I said, no, traditionally they do not. Which of course spurred him to ask, but don’t men want to feel as one too? (Ha! Apparently their need to be 'one' is not as strong as their need to keep their name).

Yeah, see how much sense all this makes? 

I then explained that historically a woman took a man’s name when she became his (oh my gosh, my feminist bones shudder at the thought). I tried to explain the historical existence of arranged marriages, the combining of families, dowries etc. etc., but any explanation simply sounded outdated and sexist as h*ll. The King has this brilliant dead stare that usually means, 'I don’t know what you’re talking about, or what you’re saying isn’t going to stay in my brain cause it simply doesn’t sound right.'  I’m thinking his stare this time was spurred by the latter emotion.

For those of you hollering to yourselves that I lack romanticism or traditional values, my response is (thank goodness for that!) that my practical brain simply is wired the way it’s wired. I have a name and it never dawned on me to shlep down to the DMV and change that name for anyone (not to mention change them on my credit cards, bank cards etc....Yawn). Furthermore, my name is not a signifier of my commitment to my husband or my marriage. That boils down to my profound feelings for him and my son, not my name. And lastly, I am a feminist. Any historical demand for me to take my husband’s name that is steeped in me being his property, well, you’re going to lose me and QUICKLY.

Friends of mine took each other’s last names and that always seemed like a nice compromise, not to mention a true representation of being one. ["Hey honey, let's both go down to the DMV. Fun day out!"] Especially if you're buying into that whole 'one' theory... Take the King, he has both our names, despite my husband’s protestations. In fact, the day my husband and I got married, which was after my son was born, he looked at me and asked if I was going to change my name now. He knew well enough that I was taking his statement as a hysterical joke. 'Ha ha ha, you’re so funny new husband, hence why I love you so much! Now go fetch me a drink.' 

So, for those of you still thinking I’m a jaded skeptic, feminist humbug, I ask you this… why did you take your husband’s name? Why did you drop yours?  Come on, really... 

 I totally get that some people simply have bad last names or they have counted down the days to get rid of their fathers' name… but my name, it simply fits. It rolls off the tongue, has a rhythmic quality to it and unless my husband’s last name was “I am a bad ass warrior of the earth, here to dazzle you,” it is very unlikely I will ever be referred to by any other moniker. Although, 'Anthea Black Coffee Please' has a nice ring to it. 

Friday, 3 November 2017

THE INFORMATION AGE


I live with a conspiracy theorist. Well, he’d say he isn’t, but if there is another way to look at something with a very discerning eye, he'll pull up a chair and take a long, probing look. He’s a computer expert, reads voraciously (not fiction; apparently fiction is only for ‘literature types’ like me) and NEVER takes things on face value. Over our marriage, this quality – and my reaction to it - has fluctuated between intense amusement and utter tedious frustration (as for me, hearing about the state of our world, government, and planetary doom is not something I can do 24-7).  Not because I don’t share his opinions, as politically and socially, we often fall on the same side of the fence; but the older I get, the more the sand box of ignorance looks like a much more peaceful place to bury my head. 

But of late, to his delight, I’m starting to give pause to a few of the things he goes on (and on) about. Let’s leave it at a few, as I don’t want to create a total monster at home. The biggest issue at the moment is information; how easily we give it up, and how valuable a commodity it is for those who are in a position of authority. Think about it, these days one freely gives up an absurd amount of information on social media: photos of your children (which Facebook now own btw), your birthday, your anniversary (posted with a cute holiday snap of you and yours), your likes, dislikes, political position, what school your child/children go to (if you’re posting photos of kids in their uniform, it’s an easy spot), who your siblings are, what your home looks like (again, photos, photos people!)… the list goes on and on. And it’s something most people don’t think about, until they do…

And then the penny drops... holy hell, what exactly am I doing and why am I sharing all this information?

Luckily, my Facebook footprint basically shows that I’m a politically charged firecracker that rants about gun control and the Orange Blowhole (POTUS) with an occasional fluffy bunny photo to keep things balanced. I don’t do family photos, recipes or anniversary shout outs as a) my husband would kill me, an b) we can never decide when our anniversary actually is. Then again, I do blog and a forensic auditor could have an information field day by simply going back over my blogs and shaping my entire existence. 

But of course the information purge doesn’t stop there. Depending on where you live, more information is given up by how you use transport (most subways/metros/buses track your entire route from start to end), the credit cards you use, your energy meters, your phone and internet usage, and even where you go in a given day (London is one of the most surveilled cities in the world, there are cameras, EVERYWHERE). 

Hello, little rat in the maze. Are you getting… concerned yet?

Don’t even get me started on “Alexa.” Hi Alexa, are you listening? Are you gathering every single thing I’m saying? The music I like, the things I’m purchasing, the ads you’re lining up to fire my way?” As you can imagine, my husband has banned all “listening” devices from our home, so Alexa, you're about as welcome as a bacterial infection. 

And now, the information age has taken one step further, with “advancements” (my husband would say these “advancements" sound super exciting (yay!) and then lull you into a sense of “I must have” stupidity.  And once again, you’ll offer up pretty much anything to get the latest gadget at the cost of your privacy.  Take the new iPhone with facial recognition. Seems pretty cool, doesn’t it? But my other half would hastily point out that you’re willingly giving up (to Apple) your fingerprint and face imprint to use at their whim or sell onto the government further down the line. You say the word DNA database to my husband and he literally shudders.

And of course the latest press release by Amazon was the cherry on top of the information sundae… not only do they know what I order, when I order and recommend things I will simply LOVE, like they’re eavesdropping on me in my own sodding flat, but now they have a service where they put an "Amazon lock" on your door - enabling their delivery drivers to ENTER YOUR HOUSE - and drop off your deliveries/groceries inside your home when you’re not there. Digest that will you, STRANGERS, in your house, putting stuff away (I'm sure with their shoes on... oh shudder the thought!) who can control entry to your home. 

WHO on earth thought this was a good idea?!! (UM, AMAZON that’s who). Or shall I say, what moron would let someone into their home willingly when they’re not there? I’ll tell you who, the masses that give up every sodding detail about their life on FB.

Holy George Orwell, the powers that be know exactly what they’re doing and moreover, that we the lemmings are willing to go along with whatever suggestions they offer to make life “easier” and more efficient. Yeah, and at what price exactly?

Welcome to the information age people.



Tuesday, 31 October 2017

TIME FOR CHANGE


If you’ve been following the news in regards to Harvey Weinstein, Parliament (here in the UK) and the latest Kevin Spacey revelations, it would dawn on you that the proverbial floodgates are open when it comes to sexual assault and harassment. And to be frank, I couldn’t be more delighted. I shall clarify for those of you that could misinterpret that last comment.

For any woman (or person for that matter who has been victimized) out there, we are delighted that the conversation is finally being had and a spotlight is being shone on an epidemic that has been around for decades… more than decades actually, if one takes a brief look at history.  Look at any history book or search the web and the suppression, oppression and objectification of women has been going on since the dawn of time. Literally.  It was we women who lost our heads to the hands of Henry the VIII; we women who were handed over in marriage with a price tag on our heads determining our worth;  we women who were considered property and subordinates to be bartered and sold…even in the Bible it repeatedly points out our place: Genesis 3:xvi 'Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.'  There is really no debating this, whether it was the Roman Age, The Renaissance, the Witch Trials, or last freaking week when women were sold as sex slaves in Eastern Europe, we’ve gotten a raw deal. 

But let’s not dwell on the negative shall we.

In light of the outpouring of people stepping forward to scream 'ME TOO' from the rooftops it’s time to open the dialogue and talk this stuff out: with your sons, your husbands, your brothers, and more importantly, your daughters. It's time men understand that women (or those in a position of less power, be it an employee, or a student/child what have you) are not to be touched, denigrated, passed over, sold, objectified or abused.  And it is time we women truly understand our worth and more importantly our power; the power of our voices in numbers. Cause a single voice can be loud as hell, but a collective of FED UP voices, well that right there is an tsunami of change you cannot thwart or ignore. 

Not to mention, it is damn time we change the language around assault. Women are not just assaulted, as if it happens in a vacuum, we’re assaulted (for the most part) by men.  It’s time to stop blaming the victim and the clothes that she wears, or her sexual history.  And it’s definitely time we crawl out of the shadows and tell those in the position of power (physical or mental) that we’re not going to take your bullsh*t anymore.  If you’re going to harass us; we’re going to talk about it.  If you’re going to assault us, get ready to meet my lawyer and a jail cell. If you’re going to objectify us, we’ll prove to you at every turn that we’re more than that and then we'll take your job :-).

Of course some fear that all this recent news will lead to a witch-hunt and any man that innocently puts his hand on a woman’s knee is going to get hung up by his fingernails. I suppose my first response to that is, unless she’s your wife, why do you need to touch a woman’s knee? It's her knee. Touch your own damn knee. And if you’re just touchy-feely (or Italian... or an Italian George Bush Senior), then fine, an innocent act most of the time will be seen as just that. There is a big difference between an innocent knee touch and an employer abusing his power and sexually harassing an employee because he/she can. 

My husband and I were talking about all of this the other day in light of the fact that we’re raising a son. And of course, we both realise it is imperative that he understands how to treat a woman. Furthermore, how he views women, their place in this world and his place alongside them. At the moment, he thinks it is hysterical to smack me on the bottom when I’m doing something... or when I’m not doing something.  In short, I think he just likes smacking my rear end.  It’s innocent obviously, and he finds it hysterical, but I did have to tell him point blank, "Listen Mister, that’s MY bottom, not yours and the last time I checked it didn’t have a bull’s-eye on it. I then start telling him about respect and personal space and the equality of women, and of course his eyes glaze over and he wanders off to look for his Lego.  

I’m hoping that in time the King - and society as a whole - will understand that the days of smacking women on the bottom are over!




Monday, 23 October 2017

SAME AS


I was coming off the tube yesterday and saw a pair of twin women. They were in their late forties and were identical. And I mean identical in every way. Their hair was cut in the same exact pixie cut and dyed purple (yes, purple). They were dressed exactly the same down to their jeans, rolled up a few inches, the same jumper, jacket, vest, and Velcro sandals. In essence, there was not anything that distinguished one from the other aside from the fact that they were not the same person.

Same, same, same.

It of course made me ponder. As a society, the majority of us are constantly trying to individualize ourselves, stick out, be different, be seen and appreciated for who we are as individuals. And yet, admittedly, some of us are very content to be the same, we fear different, we seek out that sartorial uniform that says safe, I’m falling the rules, so to speak, so leave me be. And in fact, there are those, like these identical twins, that actually crave to be exactly the same down to our Velcro sandals, like this buys us some sort of invisibility.

I’m not a twin, so I don’t get the twin dynamic or psyche. My mom was a twin, but they were fraternal, so visually they were very different. I know they definitely had a bond that went extremely deep, but they were very different in many ways and proud of these differences. But the identical twin bond is a bit of a mystery to many; their compulsion to not individuate themselves, to want to dress the same way, and be seen, the same way is something we non-twins just do not understand.

Some twins have reportedly said they like to confuse people. They have described it as some sort of game where the more they stir a reaction or fool people into thinking they’re interchangeable, the more they enjoy it. Others say it’s a celebration of being twins, being members of this special club where you have been one since the womb. After so many years as an identical twin, perhaps you begin to see yourselves exactly as others do, an exact reflection of your twin. And without them, it’s as if you don’t exist (And yet you do, you do!! See the conundrum here).

I’m one of five sisters, and to be honest, while I was extremely close to the sister 13 months above me growing up, I knew from an early age I wanted to be different, express my individuality and embrace my differences – whatever they may be. Sure from time to time my mom dressed us the same way, but I couldn’t imagine doing this as adults. On the contrary, there have been times we have bought the same item with the caveat that we can only wear it in our respective countries!

Next time, I’m compelled to stop these sisters in black and simply ask why? Why match down to your sandals when you can be different. Then again, take a look around; I suppose ‘same’ has always been comfortable, safe, easy. We understand safe (esp. as fear the sh*t out of different), it says, I know you. I am one of you. We are in this together. 



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