I was having a conversation recently. In said conversation the topic turned to equality and diversity (as is standard for so many of my convos). We were discussing workplaces and hiring people who are ‘different’ to us – whatever that difference is to you, your team, your work, your personalities, your culture, your norms.
A guy. A lovely guy. A lovely guy who’s open, and aware, and actively committed to diversity & equality. A lovely guy from whom I’ve learnt about how to practically make space for and include others in my daily life; a lovely guy I’ve worked with.
He said something. Something NOT even offensive. Something normal and understandable and relatable.
As he explained why, when hiring for a role, they’d chosen the candidate with more ‘experience’ (in the limited boxes listed on the JD); the candidate who was ready to hit the ground running. He explained why they hadn’t chosen the other candidate.
The one they wanted. Like really really wanted. The one who had rich and varied experience and character and who would had stretched and added to their team and work in different ways. The one who would have needed some mentoring. Some input. Maybe some training and definitely some time, to learn and adjust. And who would have, in turn, taught and grown them. He explained how, with capacity constraints and output demands they just weren’t ableto do that now.
I silently ask myself silently:
What is ‘ability’ but willingness met with effort?
Do you ever experience someone saying or doing something really small or simple, but it opens up a WHOLE NEW way of thinking for you? Well thank you Hollie McNish for doing that for me this week!
I read a short poem/sketch she shared and *hey presto*, I’m deconstructing the ‘bases’ of sex and doing some serious musing on virginity. Firstly, she’s absolutely right. The Male Tongue created the language of sex (and I don’t mean in the good way !*).
Why is the pleasure from a hand or tongue, which, when used with consent & consideration, is powerful and rich enough to bring women and men and others to climax deemed ‘fore‘ play? Why not just ‘play’?
Why is virginity ‘lost’ (lost?) when a person’s penis enters another’s vagina? Why not when a person first experiences the releasing pleasure of consensual orgasm with another? Why instead is female virginity bound to men reaching that ‘final’ base where they orgasm inside another? Wait-are lesbians virgins forever?!
Why are those few films which show women receiving one of life’s great pleasures (well, when done right!) rated 18, while scenes of women pleasuring men are just soooo commonplace that’ll just be a 15? (Yep, true fact: Blue Valentine; Ryan Gosling fighting for that scene to be classed R – UK 15- frankly made that film and him even hotter!)
You know why?
Patriarchy decided language.
Patriarchy decided rules of sex.
To remake the rules, we have to reclaim and remake language.
I’ve been thinking of late about love & forgiveness & voila, this poem came to me. It’s only after I’d finished it that I called to mind the wiser, more beautiful words of Kahlil Gibran ‘On Love’ in The Prophet so after you’re read my words, do read The Master’s!
What is it to choose love
when that love may bring harm and hurt?
What is it to take risks with one’s heart, trusting that after hurt,
This week, the inquest into the death a beautifully lovely girl began-she was a former student of mine. She was a rare, exceptionally kind, bright, well-loved girl. I wept a lot when she died; I’ve cried a lot this week. And I’m just a former teacher who liked & admired her. I cannot fathom the pain & heaviness for her family & friends. This is my thought today:
And in typical LB fashion, we are already planning a celebration for when we reach 10 years in one year, five months and two days time (but who’s counting!). We LBs do love to celebrate (well I do, and David’s caught the bug through osmosis); but our desire to have a big party, blessing or some sort of celebration with friends & family goes deeper than just wanting to dress up, eat, drink, dance and generally have fun.
In our wedding service, as with all weddings to which I’ve been, our Vicar asked the congregation ‘do you, the family and friends of David and Natalia promise to support and uphold them in their marriage?’ And, as with every other wedding, everyone exclaimed ‘WE WILL!’.
Now, it has been said (on more than one occasion) that I take words too literally and seriously so maybe this is just me. But, to me, when I make this claim, when I shout out to my friends or family at the alter, making the biggest promise they’ll ever make, that I’ll support them in that, I mean it. But the number of people who announce their divorce to friends, family & acquaintances who are totally shocked shows that those friends or family likely haven’t been upholding or proactively supporting their marriage, or there wouldn’t be such shocked faces…and maybe there’d be fewer divorces.
But this isn’t just to tap away & judge the people who came, celebrated, ate, danced, meant well, gave a gift, and then buggered off. As adults, if we want support then we need to show that we are open to it. Yes, other people need to prioritise asking more than just superficial questions to which they expect and accept ‘yeh, we’re great thanks’ responses; we can ask ‘what’s been a highlight and challenge of marriage so far?’ or ‘what’s made you want to get divorced (this week!) and what’s made you glad you chose each other?’ etc. But we also need to be open to such input and, importantly, to provide opportunities for people to be part of our marriage (in a non-breaking of vows kinda way 😉 )…for me, that’s part of the reason I have a WhatsApp group with a couple of close, married mates wherein we can vent, seek advice, challenge & support each other.
And this part of the reason why we intend on marking our marriage milestones not just the two of us (though we do that as well), but as celebration within our community of family & friends. I love that because we so often have people live with us, they see the cuddles, the thoughtfulness, the not leaving the house without kissing each other goodbye of our LB marriage. They also see the griping, moaning, occasional shouting & swearing too (all me). Because of how open, honest & authentic we are (well, we try to be) our friends & family know that they can speak up, nudge, enquire etc about us. And what better opportunity to celebrate with, support and uphold us than at a big anniversary? Because our marriage is not just between the two of us-it’s a commitment and relationship which embraces and hopefully blesses and supports and help grow others we love too-and they, in turn, help us grow and be happier and better.
I’m writing from the Lounge at the airport in Switzerland at the end of a greatly enjoyable, beautiful, tiring, snowboarding holiday with my hub and a bunch of mates. Beside the stunning scenery & our friendly, handsome instructor (hee hee) was the Swiss Spa. Cue FULL NUDITY, no British prudish reservedness, just let it all hang out!
To be clear, I am quintessentially English in many an area, but when it comes to physical reservation (or speaking loudly or frankly!) my Ghanaian side wins over and I fully welcome the relaxing opportunity to set aside nonsensical British prudishness re nudity. I actually genuinely think more nudity in (safe, consensual, non-sexualised) contexts like this would be beneficial.
Firstly, if adolescents went to the local swimming pool & in a safe, relaxed, respectful setting regularly saw what NORMAL bodies look like-all different, with wobbly bulges, pokey bones & marks etc- it’d help British kids who use porn for ‘sex education’ (a commonly given reason) know that it’s fake, false & thus help their real-life expectations & awareness. Similarly, it could boost body confidence for teenagers and adults alike-esp females who are bombarded with adverts to correct our skin tone/texture/wrinkles/flabbiness etcccc. To see bodies that are normal, in all different shapes & sizes would be a great counterbalance to the deceit & stress of a society where even trim, toned, personally-trained, beautiful celebrities are routinely photoshopped! And as well as the relief gained from comparing oneself to normal, uniquely shaped bodies, one’s own body-confidence would almost certainly increase as nudity at the monthly spa would allow us to accept & relax with our bodies more easily & not to depend on external validation that all our bodies are wonderful, unique, beautiful things!
Finally, I think it would be SO helpful as a means to un-sexualising bodies! British culture is so hyper sexualised-again, mainly re women’s bodies but men get it too. Whereas seeing men of all shapes & ages wandering around, chatting to each other stark naked & not perving off me, or other women brave/relaxed enough to leave the towel, was so positive & so safe.
So, in a society where often the first & only body one sees aside from one’s own is in a porn clip or when having sex for the first time, I think it could help us be more aware, more confident, more relaxed, and more safe in our bodies if we were just around them more!
I had *such* a good weekend-hosting another ace LB party, followed by a 36hr mates movie weekend of late nights & being up early enough for McDonalds breakfast (with 2hrs to spare-such is our dedication to fitting in an extra movie!).
The cost of this fabulous exertion for me, however, is increased aches, pain & more tiredness than my non chronic-pain-enduring friends. So instead of doing the few things on the To Do list I diligently wrote up before bed yesterday, to do when my mates had left, I crashed on the sofa & napped instead of going to church this eve (very disappointing as it’s a great talk topic at the mo!); dinner was brought to me on the sofa by my kind husband who knew enough to rouse me to eat tonight when I’d have rather slept but actually needed the energy & enjoyment of the eating more (he’s a keeper!). The weekend’s activities were absoluteeely worth it (!!!) but in hindsight, having the movie weekend off the back of the party was over zealous social planning (I can hear other chronic-pain endurers going ‘duh!’).
OK, I know that describing two days of mooching on the sofa watching (brilliant) films & eating guest-made treats as ‘exerting’ sounds ironic but it’s not. I also know I am FORTUNATE! Yes I wake in pain every day & sometimes cry in pain or, moreso, from the physical & emotional tiredness from it but, hello, I danced, chatted, served, laughed & ate & drank from Friday to Sunday, & had more fabulous fun & conversation than many healthier peeps this weekend! Amidst the hosting, I let my friends/guests wash up each morning while I got my pilates groove-on cos hey, I’ve learned how to receive love & help (well, am learning), & also because I believe that it’s kind to let others show love & appreciation through service if they want to.
The time with mates has been so wonderfully nourishing for me mentally & emotionally as we watched great stories, had fun & scintillating conversation, deepened new friendships & ate & drank heartily. But it’s also been two eves in a row of 5-6hrs sleep for a body that needs-& rarely gets-9+hrs to be rested, but which will still wake in aches & pain every single morning regardless of how many hours sleep it gets, cos, y’know, chronic pain life. Nonetheless, now I’m more & more aware, & ACCEPTING, of the need for chronic pain *self-care* planning, I’m learning to plan better in future. So I’ve written off the To Do list: I’ll just have to suck in choir practice tomorrow as I haven’t the energy to rehearse tonight, & I am cashing in on the on the best perk of my job (well second best after the free coffee!) & am going to work from home tomorrow-a luxury for which I am immeasurably grateful!! So this is me being open. As I write that my face is saying ‘ugh’ as I hate vulnerability & showing any weakness! But, I’ve realised that is colluding with internalised ignorant societal norms which dictate that physical & mental health = strength when, in fact, it takes *real strength* to recognise, accept & acknowledge one’s needs & limitations. So here are some of mine laid bare. And they don’t make me any less (chronically) fabulous!