Category Archives: Fly on the windscreen

It’s a question of… not getting hurt

There are a large number of quotes along the lines of how you should “love like you’ve never been hurt” and how it’s better to “have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. Now that’s all very fine in theory but is romantic love really worth the work, the heartbreak and the hours lost on analysing every single “why” that pops up in a relationship?

Having steered clear of intimate contact of any sort with men for several years (close to seven years to be exact), I can frankly say that it’s a lot less painful not to be in love and I’m much more efficient when I only have to concentrate on stuff not related to my feelings. Until recently in fact I had totally forgotten how time consuming and excruciating it can be to have another person occupy your mind and soul in that way.

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Some may say that the wonderful moments spent with the “loved one” largely make up for the hassle but I find it hard to agree. What’s the use of those moments if you spend many, many more glued to your phone, freaking out about why that person apparently has better things to do than to answer your text messages? What good does it do to take down your barriers and reveal yourself to someone who doesn’t care enough about it to acknowledge your feelings or even, your relationship?

Someone asked me the other day what the worst things a guy I was dating had ever said or done to me was. I thought of the time where I got a nosebleed during sex and the guy asked me if he had to stop because he’d “like to finish”. I thought of the time where another one told me that, when he kissed me, he “nearly felt like having a quickie” (I think it was the “nearly” that pissed me off the most). Of course I also recalled the guys who cheated on me, and those who made promises they never kept. I remember the guy who spent hours crying about an ex girlfriend, expecting me – his current one – to comfort him (which I did because I’m stupid in that way). And yes, I will never forget being in bed with that someone very special and finding out he was texting another girl while fondling me. That was hurtful. (I wonder why I was surprised when he later broke up with me by text on New Year’s Day…).

But let’s face it: what really hurts is to discover that you’re still that girl your mother told you not to be. The one who makes excuses for the other person’s shortcomings, who accepts things she shouldn’t, who sees signs of devotion where there aren’t any but ignores all the warning signs and who spends time thinking about someone who is not thinking about her at all. The one who stays when she should leave.

As relationship quotes go, I prefer this one: “Definition of stupid: knowing the truth, seeing the truth, but still believing the lies”. The truth is that most of the time I know when things aren’t really as they should be, just as well as I know they won’t change. The lies are the ones I’m telling myself. I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to stop doing that: overlooking the obvious and forgiving a guy when I shouldn’t, just because I don’t want to lose him or whatever I think we have together. Until then I think I’ll have to return to being fulltime celibate or accept getting hurt. And right now, the first solution seems by far the simplest.

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It’s a question of… cyberbullying

I’ve always been wary of people in a group. Somehow, being in a group can lead us humans to do appalling acts we would have been quite incapable of engaging in on our own. Perfectly nice people become bullies, and otherwise petty aggressors become outright criminals. This is why I always try to steer clear of people in groups on streets and in public transports and why I’ve never been totally at ease in a stadium.

Recently, I’ve been painfully reminded about what hurtful consequences the “group effect” can also have in a playground and how an otherwise happy and confident child can be reduced to a unhappy and insecure one in just a few days of “group therapy”. Luckily, my son is still in an age where he tells me a lot of what goes on in school and I can still do some damage repair.

However, I believe that anyone who’s been a target for bullying will remember it for life. I still recall the many times I sat huddled up in a corner of the playground hidden under my coat while my classmates made fun of my name… And yet, compared to what I see and hear about today, that’s nothing.

I also remember with much shame a few episodes where I was the one “helping” with bullying someone. It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t the leader of the pack. Whether you’re in the pack or outside but not doing anything to stop it, it’s still terribly wrong and damaging. Peer pressure might be an explanation, but it’s never a viable excuse.

Children can be incredibly cruel to one another. I don’t know if it’s because they’re too young to understand how hurtful they can be, if their minds are not yet evolved enough, or if it’s because they’re not yet as good retaining their natural human instinct as (most) grown-ups are. Another reason may be a lack of proper adult supervision or appropriate “moral input”…

The reason I’m writing all this? I received an invitation yesterday from a young girl I know to join a Facebook group. The group was directed against a schoolmate of hers. I have no idea who the targeted girl is but I can well imagine how the creation of this group has affected her because it affected me deeply.

I suddenly got a preview of what kind of bullying my own child can become a victim of – or generate himself – within a very short time. And I find it frightening. The girl who sent me the hate group invitation is an otherwise intelligent and sweet girl, from a loving family – which is probably why her act shocked me even more. If she can do this kind of heartless and stupid thing without measuring the consequences, I can only imagine what those bullying my child in the playground today will be capable of doing online tomorrow.

The worst thing about it? If or when it happens, I won’t be able to do as much as I’d like. Because the older he gets, the less I’ll be able to monitor his each and every move online and off.

A recent UK study revealed that 50% of young people have been cyberbullied and 29% had told no one about it. An American study showed that cyberbullying victims were almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to youth who had not experienced cyberbullying.

There are so many, many things to protect your children from today and so many things to teach them. It’s no longer a question of not accepting sweets from a stranger, looking out for cars before crossing the street or saying no to drugs. Amongst many other new dangers, parents have to teach their children Internet safety and online behaviour too – and let’s be honest, many of us don’t respect – or understand – a lot of this ourselves.

To the girl who sent me that Facebook invitation and to the ones who joined her group, I would however like to repeat what my parents taught me long before Internet was invented and what I in turn tell my own son very often: Always treat others the way you want to be treated. It may be ancient advice, but it works in cyberspace too.

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It’s a question of… the perfect diet

There is no escape: after the holiday season, it’s diet season. The same magazines that were encouraging me to “shed a few kilos” before Christmas in order to fit into my (inexistent) party dress are now telling me to diet once again so I can become a “new and fit” me. Apparently, all my pre-Christmas efforts didn’t go well… (which makes sense as I didn’t fully engage in any).

To be honest, the magazines aren’t the only ones subtly pushing me towards a little weight shifting. Every time I open my cupboard my clothes shout out “don’t even bother!” I have reached a point where I can only fit into one pair of jeans (because they’re the stretchy type) and am thankful for the cold weather because sporting oversized sweaters doesn’t look too strange. I can’t stand wearing my bra and well, even my underpants are tight – which must be the ultimate sign. So yes, one can say that I really do need to lose some weight.

Will I be buying diet books or following diet recipes from the magazines? Start ingesting vomit-worthy diet drinks, roam the Internet in search of the perfect diet pill or engage in some new detox fad? I think not.

First of all, I’ve learnt the hard way that I’m not the type of person to follow a set program, count calories or eat things I don’t like just because they have a low GI. I refuse to go all protein, fibre or grapefruity – for the simple reason that it’s downright cruel to my system and I wouldn’t last a week without turning into a very irritable and depressive being.

Also, I’m not stupid. Like most people, I know exactly where my unwanted kilos come from and I know that in order to lose them the best diet is also the most simple one: eat less, drink less and move more. I’m not saying it’s an easy diet – I like my chocolate, wine/beer and couch sitting as much as the next person – but it’s by far the easiest for me, and it works.

My perfect diet…

Women’s magazines have taught me a few things throughout the years (it’s not because I don’t follow their diets that I can’t read about them!), so most of this is based on “standard dieting”.

  • I eat breakfast (nothing new here), and 5 to 6 smaller (or medium’ish…) meals during the day (nothing new there either!).
  • I don’t eat after 7 pm (very hard – that’s when I normally start pigging out) but often drink a glass of wine before bedtime. The wine is more for my own comfort. I don’t care about the sugar it contains, what matters is that it’s alcohol and it’s diuretic. Basically, in the morning, I may have a small headache, but I weigh a little less (because of the water loss, but still, it keeps spirits high!)
  • I go “logically healthy” (I eat what I know is good for me). I eat more vegetables than usual, take fruit and yogurts instead of cake, continue having meat and fish and develop a true liking for soup and hard-boiled eggs.
  • I try to avoid bread and to cut down the pasta (one of my deadly sins). I keep dark chocolate in the house though. (It’s good for you and also, I’m an addict). I put even more chilli on my food than I normally do (on cheese, on chocolate, on salad… don’t know why).
  • When I get a hunger pang, I eat pickled gherkins and caperberries in huge quantities.
  • I don’t start jogging or doing sit-ups because I’m not that kind of person. But it would probably do me good. If I’m really motivated, I get out an old stretching video I have and do some moves in front of the TV. It’s the kind of exercise that doesn’t get me too sweaty but still makes me feel good (about my incredible willpower).
  • Then there’s the water issue. Supposedly, it’s important to drink massive amounts of this. While you’ll never get me to bounce around lightly with a 1 litres bottle of Evian sticking out of my bag (I mean, who does?), I do try to drink water throughout the day, but “spice it up” with lemon juice or herbs so I don’t feel like gagging after the second glass. I also replace some of my cuppas of PG tea with green tea (a little suffering when on a diet is normal after all…). I never ever try Chinese diet tea unless I have an urge to spend half the day running to the toilet!

After three weeks of this “personal diet”, I generally lose between 4 and 6 kilos – and keep them off (until I start over-eating again).

Now you may be asking yourself why, if it’s that simple, I can’t fit into my underwear today. I have no valid answer. I know I feel much better when I can wear (all) my clothes and fit into my bra. I know that it’s not that great an effort to lose a few kilos – even for the food-loving person that I am. I sit here trying to find convincing excuses but I really can’t think of any. So I suppose that means I’ll be starting a diet.

Next Monday.

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It’s a question of… men peeing outside

I live on a boulevard in Paris: a wide, multi-lane road with trees on each side, on which my office window has a direct view.

For a reason I have yet to elucidate the tree just in front of my window is the one men always choose to pee behind. And ‘behind’ is of course the wrong word. A tree on a boulevard is as round as anywhere else, so no matter where the peeing person stands, I get a full view of something I’d rather not.

In a week, I’ll see an average of 6,3 men peeing on that tree (yes, I count…). And I’m not just talking about the man who lives two benches down. I’m talking about office guys, delivery guys, simple going-for-a-walk guys; I’ve even seen a neighbour taking a leak there!

It goes without saying that I’ve never seen a woman doing the same. This tree is not a discreet place. There are cars passing constantly at less than one meters distance on one side and a busy sidewalk plus 12 floors of people living on the other side. Why do men pee here as often as the dogs that pass? I ask myself that every day…

Oh, I know all about the wonderful sensation of “freedom” men feel when peeing outside, I know that it’s much easier to do it without wetting yourself when you don’t have to squat, but still, why should I have to watch strangers pee outside my window? Why can’t they wait, use the public toilet or go into the café (both less than 50 meters down the street)?

Each month, 56 000 m2 of Paris are soiled by urine. One can only guess how many men pee in the streets every day to cover such a surface. My answer is: too many.

A few months ago, Susana Ferreira, a journalist from the  Wall Street Journal did a story about the “Anti-pipi Brigade”  in Paris. A lot of (non French) bloggers followed up on it. It  was after all a great story: 88 “agents de la Brigade des incivilités” roaming the French capital in the search of  street “urinaters” and handing out tickets. (I do wish they’d  visit my street, but I’ve never seen them for real).

In 2009, about 2000 tickets (with fines up to 450 €) have  been given in Paris to men relieving themselves illegally.  That’s not much compared to New York where the police have handed out over 18 500 summonses for public urination this year.

My point: I think men who pee outside are pigs. If it’s so important for their “manliness” to do it, they can let the little one out in their own garden or in some remote field. And whilst they’re at it, they might want to practice how to pee straight…

You can watch the video about the Parisian “Anti-pipi Brigade” here.

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It’s a question of… high heels

One of the (many) things my mother never succeeded in teaching me was how to walk in high heels. Or let’s just say heels, because they don’t have to be many inches or centimetres high for me to look like a drunken duck when I wear them. (I once strained my ankle badly falling in flat mules).

Mums don’t give up easily (which, generally speaking, is probably a good thing). So every now and then she still buys me a pair of high-heeled shoes I wish I could wear. I have quiet a collection ready for me to “slip on” for whenever I’m invited to a place where I never have to stand up.

I know high heels make you taller and thinner and give you a killer posture. All of which wouldn’t do me any harm. But how people actually walk in them remains a mystery to me. I for one would never criticise Victoria Beckham for anything because I’m in total awe of her extreme high heel walking talent (though I have read she’s going to need a bunion operation soon…).

A few months ago, a special Heels Academy (“Talons Academy”) opened in Paris to teach women how to walk in heels. Strangely enough there’s a course for “day heels” and another for “night heels”. Not sure what the difference is (the height assumingly?), but it’s not making things easier if you also have to adopt your walk to the time of the day! There have also been several “races in heels” going on round the world and I’ve seen videos from Sweden and Holland of “workout in heels” classes.

According to podiatrists and insurance companies though, wearing high heels is a health hazard. Thousands and thousands of women are injured every year when they fall in their stilettos and many more suffer bone deformities and long-term knee injuries. Last year, Scotland’s biggest railway stations even put up posters asking female customers not to wear high-heeled shoes because so many had slipped and tripped and hurt themselves causing havoc for other train passengers.

All this to say that despite the high heel epidemic amongst the “celebrities”, despite all those beautiful and sexy stilettos I pass every day in the shop windows, and even despite my mother’s continuing efforts to try and get me on the wagon, I won’t be wearing heels any time soon. Except maybe lying down, but that is an entirely different question.

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It’s a question of… not liking Mondays

When the Boomtown Rats had their ”I don’t like Mondays” hit, I was about 10. It took several years of listening to it on the radio however before I understood that the song was not about someone hating school, but about a real-life school shooting.

What at the time was still a rare event – a 16-year-old girl opening fire on a school playground across her home – has since become a recurring and horrifying news item. Though the shooter is not often a girl and does not often live to tell why she committed such a senseless act. The answer Brenda Ann Spencer gave when she was arrested was that she “didn’t like Mondays”. Would it have been better if there had been a rational reason for an absurd act? She’s still in prison and was denied parole for the forth time this year.

I know many people who don’t like Mondays. After all, Monday is generally the day you choose to start on something “life-changing”: diet, stop smoking, going to the gym… Good intentions, but not always something to look forward to. It’s a “back to work” or “start looking for a job again” day. It’s also a medical fact that there are more heart attacks on Mondays.

As for me, I pretty much like Mondays. It’s the day I start looking forward to the weekend again.

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It’s a question of… getting the flu shot

This time last year, I hurried out to buy the regular flu vaccination as soon as it was available. I found it in my refrigerator in June. When I threw it out I told myself “good luck that I never used it” – but that’s only because I was lucky enough to pass winter without getting ill.

Forgetfulness was not the reason I didn’t get the shot, nor was fear of needles. Fear of side effects from the vaccination was.

Now I’m not against vaccines at all. On the contrary, I think the parents who don’t get their children the “classic” shots are irresponsible. I did however spend several months constantly nauseous and generally “off” after a hepatitis B vaccination. Since then, I haven’t been as “shot-popping” as I once was. I do the strict minimum.

This year I didn’t even bother to buy the regular flu shot when it came out. But now I’m asking myself if I should get the H1N1 flu shot. And even more important: should my son get it? Is it wrong to do it – or not to do it?

In France (where I live) parts of the population considered “at risk” were offered to get the shot this week. Of the people I know, some have done it, others haven’t. None of those who asked their doctor “should I get the vaccination?” got a clear answer.

When French medical workers were offered the N1H1 flu shot the week before, only 10% got vaccinated. Is it any wonder why 76% of the French population say they’re not getting the shot either?

As for me, well I still haven’t made up my mind. People often criticise the police state side of society. But in this case, I’d really like someone to take over – and take the responsibility if the wrong choice is taken…

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