Questioning

Part I

I sat awkwardly between two people on the train home. My shoulders tucked and my hands were resting on my knees. I longed to stretch my legs but before me were a herd of school children of whom I was afraid to look at, let alone to almost touch.

On my right was my fiancé of 9 months and one week. The wedding planning had recently become stagnant after we had disputed over every other detail. I imagined a small intimate wedding of perhaps 10 guests from each side in a converted barn with wooden tables, wholesome food and only to be lit by candlelight. He wanted 2 weddings – Hindu and Christian to represent both of our backgrounds, a party with an open bar and a stag do in Vegas of course.

It’s not that we can’t afford it. He’s a respected chef and I’m one of the chief editor at a major newspaper in London – the youngest editor, in fact, according to Reuters. His ideas of marriage were just different to mine. I already knew this, of course, as this was one of the topics which came up in conversation on our first date – or was it second? I can’t remember. Anyway, he had done some catering for some extravagant weddings during his teen years, which, I believe started his lifelong fantasy of seven-tiered multi-flavoured cakes, fireworks and the brides arrival in a helicopter (yes, he really suggested this).

We met at university, about 8 years ago now. He studied Law, presumably by ‘suggestion’ from his mother. I had only met her once, since she died just 3 weeks after her son graduated, but I presume she said something along the lines of:

‘Why don’t you get a degree and you can focus on your cooking after that’

A doctor herself, I always wondered what she must have thought after being told that her only son wanted to pursue a career as a restauranteur. I don’t know if she would have be proud, even today. I digress. 

My fiancé had put up a notice about wanting volunteers to taste test his new recipes. Of course, he was a complete stranger to me back then – much like everyone on campus, since I only left my dormitory to attend lectures. However, something sparked when I saw his notice and I found myself walking over to his dorm that afternoon. 

He lived in the building directly opposite to mine. It had a pool and a screening room. I remember, he smiled as he introduced himself to me as he met me on the ground floor. He was tall, had neatly trimmed hair, a prominent jawline and a growing stubble perhaps after three days on not shaving. He was wearing a white t-shirt which was carefully matched with the black jeans I saw underneath the apron that was wrapped around his waist.

‘Why did you go so early?’ I thought to myself. ‘He’s not even finished cooking yet’.

I don’t remember much from the conversation we had that evening, nor much of the meal but it was something along the lines of fried quail and sage butter. There was a glimpse in his eyes which oozed a certain charm that I cannot describe. I found myself returning to his kitchen every weekend before it became every day. He was my first ‘I love you’ and the first person I had ever truly embraced.

After graduating, we took our first holiday abroad to Vienna. We were on the famous ferris wheel when he asked me to move in with him – romantic, I know. You see, I was forced to move back in to my old bedroom in my parents’ home, since I had not yet gathered enough savings for a place of my own. My fiancé’s father, however, was the owner of a music label (the name of which I cannot disclose), and had gifted his son a car and a three bedroom apartment in London. 

I decided to move in 5 months after the funeral – it was best to give him some space at least. 

Over the years, we both established good portfolios in our chosen industries and eventually saved up enough to buy a house together in Hampstead Heath. Like traditions go, we went on a vacation just before the big move, and to my surprise he popped the big question:

“Tara, please make me the happiest man and do me the honour of becoming my wi- ”

‘Excuse me Madam, you’re sitting on my coat’ 

An angelic voice bought me out of my daydream. It was a woman on my left. 

Reflection

Read Part I – ‘Mirror, mirror’ here

Rashida Stone heard clatter when she was watching television one evening. 

The little one ran in. 

Cindy broke the mirror, she said with a smirk 

A rarity, Cindy getting into trouble. Something the little one longed for. 

Rashida shrieked. Her best friend had told her there was always a clumsy one.

She now knew who it was. 

‘Unbelievable’ she thought, the third one she’s ever broken 

is what she wishes she said.

Instead the words came out loud and sharp, something ever so unpleasing. You see, Rashida claimed she had never said a foul word until she had children. Now they were all she ever said.

Cindy cleaned. Rashida did not help, or even peak, and even refused to listen to what happened.

In her mind, she was always right – arrogance thrived her, pride became her warmth. 

There was a part of Rashida that softened for the likeness of her children; all except one. 

Cindy and Rashida bumped paths at the door of Cindy’s bedroom.

They had been avoiding each other all night, both for different reasons. 

Cindy cowered. Rashida screamed and screamed for no apparent reason. 

Was the mirror expensive? No. Was it of sentimental value? No. 

Then what exactly was the problem? Not even Rashida knew.

Cindy cried all night. Rashida could hear her from floor one.

She reflected on her action, her overreaction and wondered what she had done wrong.

Her daughters sadness prolonged into the night, and then Rashida knew.

This wasn’t the first time such thing had taken place. 

Cindy was sad. Sad for a long time and would be sad in years to come – she thought. 

Rashida opposed her daughter. The happiest of person but the narrowest of minds; her opinions came through the mouths of others, her thoughts stolen from the depths of minds. 

Rashida stayed up and thought about her overreaction. She admitted she was wrong. 

She reflected upon her attitude until the dull humming of Cindy’s weep disappeared. Cindy’s light switch clicked, and both mother and daughter fell asleep. 

Apologies.

In the morning, it seemed as if Cindy’s mother had forgotten about last nights debacle. 

She avoided her mother all day; Rashida wondered why.

They both moved on but Cindy never knew.

Never knew if she was truly forgiven for her crime. 

Rush Hour Crush

I got caught in the midst of rush hour on Thursday. The worst time of the day when you’re in London; crowded trains filled with business people or tourists. Everyone receives a fair amount of pushes, shoves and the occasional elbow to the rib. All in all, we just want to get home.

Somehow I got onto the tube in one piece. Holding a large shopping bag, wearing my backpack over my thick winter jacket and headphones in, a must, whilst listening to heavy metal to drown out the noises of crying babies and enthusiastic tourists. There I was, looking like a right sort. I was tapping my fingers on the pole to the beat of the music when I saw him. I must have been loud because he saw me tapping and smiled. He was standing about an arm’s length in front. But of course, having been rush hour meant that there were at least 3 people inbetween us – like the wall of Verona separating Romeo and Juliet.

He wore a charcoal grey suit jacket and an unbuttoned baby pink shirt. No tie – which I don’t blame because of the humidity. I couldn’t see his shoes but I presumed they were somewhat smart. He had an olive skin tone but it was his hair that had struck me the most. Locks of brown glossy hair, curly and remained at the scalp yet dead straight on the edges.

He got a seat after a herd of people got off at the train at Turnpike Lane, leaving me still standing. I thought it’d be a good idea to bluetooth him a picture of what I was listening to since he had cared enough to smile. He didn’t appear on the Airdrop list. To my unfortune, nothing came up with his image and instead I accidently sent the image to ‘Danielle’s iphone’ – boy I bet she was confused. A few stops went by and the seat next to him became available. A message from the heavens. This was my chance. I sat beside him and took off my headphones and adjusted my hair using the help of my reflection in the window opposite. He smelled strongly of a freshly applied JPG – a smell which was fairly familiar to me.

The remainder of the journey was a quiet one. We both left the train at the same stop via a different set of double doors. He smiled again when I turned to look around for him. Is he just polite or playing with my feelings?

The train jolted to a stop. I ran out through the doors and up the escalators to catch my next bus in time. This was it. Time for the love of my life to run up behind me and ask for my number so we could stay up all night and talk on the phone. Tonight was the premiered night of many that we’d spend together and live to have a life of four children and live in a country home and own the biggest farm. Tonight –

“Excuse me?”

I stop. Eyes wide open in shock. Heart pounding against my chest. Legs turn to jelly. My prayers just keep on getting answered today. The angels are by my side.

That’s when my farce o’clock struck. I turned around to find it wasn’t him. It wasn’t him at all. I knew who this person was though. He sat diagonal to me on the train I had just been on. Gym bag, jogging bottoms, baggy t-shirt, expensive trainers and wearing AirPods. He was probably one of those exercise people – oh no – a personal trainer. He’s not going to ask if I needed any help did he?

“Yes?”

“Would you mind if I had your phone number?”

I politely declined and walked away, still searching for my twilight tube man. He was gone and so was my bus ride home.

Barbie’s problem

A few weeks ago when I was teaching a girl no less than 10, I saw that her pencil case was covered with prints and stickers of Disney princesses. This for me brought back moments to reminisce. I picked up the case and fingered the outlines of it. How I used to look up to all these characters, creating shrines for them in my bedroom and dressing up like them for every birthday. Momentarily, I asked the girl who her favourite was. “Belle” she said. Then I asked her least favourite expecting a villain like Scar or Ursula. “Tatiana”, she said as if it were obvious enough. I asked why. Her response instantly brought me back from my reminiscent high. “Because she’s brown.”

“Brown, but you’re brown too?”. Bearing in mind that the girl, like myself originates from South Asia. “I’m not brown, I’m white” she said almost proudly. I ended the conversation right there. The last thing I wanted was to argue with a child. Her comment angered me but more importantly I was concerned to what made her think this way. What was so wrong with us Asians that made her want to deny the fact that she was brown?

This isn’t the first time that problems have arisen with diversity in fictional characters and toys for children. Take Barbie for example; the doll was first released in 1959 where is wasn’t really a problem for all dolls being identical in skin colour, hair or having the “perfect” body. It was a huge hit with young children and parents since birthday presents had just gotten easier.

The issue relies on the fact that young girls from across the globe will have been conditioned to think that beauty only lies within a woman of white skin, blonde hair and a body shape that is impossible and unhealthy to achieve. Studies show that 40% of children are dissatisfied with the way they look after having received a Barbie doll. This comes from a variety of reasons such as body image and skin colour. Although the demographic for the Barbie is well below the age of ten, the long term consequences are much more severe. Having worries about body image at a young age is more likely to lead to having disorders with eating, social anxiety and body dysmorphia. What Mattel failed to mention is that the real life size of Barbie is frankly impossible to achieve. According to calculations, the doll would have a dress size of 2, this being far below the average dress size of an adult and extremely unhealthy.

It took almost 60 years for Barbie to have a transformation. In 2016 Mattel created dolls with several skin tones and body shapes. One size certainly does not fit all and customers were given a choice of what kind of Barbie they could have. But was it 60 years too late? Barbie’s brand image will always be of a silicon plastic doll with white skin and blonde hair and not the diversity that has recently been introduced. So for the future, children will need to be brought up with the varied dolls, potentially reducing eating disorders in teenagers and a less conditioned vision of beauty.

Barbie body image

Crowd surfer. By Tallulah Stone

Crowd surfer. Me, on a swarm.

Surfing the crowd to search for you, my love. My love?

You look the same. A duplicate. Fourty hundred people. All the same as you. Peach in tone from intoxicant, eating you from the inside through out, bubbling away a new corpuscle.

Hands prodding on my back. Backwards, forwards. Forwards and backwards. Fingers stabbing into my back. Any pain will do, to get to you. My love.

     You look the same as them. Bandana, Bindi, Booze. But different, droned my conscience.

I spot you. Far away. Staring. Stinging.

I spot you. Whiskers, sculpted, hair of blondey auburn. Bern. You’re holding something, Rhine. I told you, same as everyone else. But different. Too good for me.

You see my umbrage from the prodding hands yet you stare. Staring at my beauty or gratifying at my discomfort? I can never tell. That’s why you’re different. Too good for me.

But when I’m released from the prodding hands, you’re gone. Right, Left, Up, Down. Nowhere to be seen.

Gone, but you’ve left something behind. An electrifying sting. I want more.

Unconventional methods of dating

Online dating is not a brand new concept; In fact, it’s been around for almost three decades. Although the discovery of new technology allowed websites such as match.com develop into applications on our mobile phones, the objective of matching with a stranger online and having a potential relationship with them has remained the same. Popular dating apps include Eharmony, Zoosk, Tinder and the budding Bumble. Having previously tried Tinder before, I was keen to use Bumble as I had not really heard of it before and intrigued to find out what was in store.

As ironic as it may sound now, I wasn’t actively looking for a relationship. I strongly believe these things should never be forced and so, without much anticipation or expectation, I opened up the app.

Initial thoughts: I particularly liked the colour scheme; a strong golden yellow, which was attractive to the eye and useful for making your profile radiant. The concept being to find the pollen to your queen bee, in other words, your soulmate/best friend. The app allows you to have up to six images of yourself, a short biography as well as connect your Instagram and Spotify. This is what my profile looked like: (excluding images)

When writing a biography, it’s best to include your passions and something that represents your personality. In my case, this was something quite comical (as I find myself to be quite the comedian). The profiles that didn’t particularly catch my attention and immediately made me swipe left (reject) were the ones that said something along the lines of “swipe right for a good time” or “life-guard, so actually certified to give you mouth to mouth”. Yes, this was a real one.. I mean, it’s good to be a little enigmatic but there is a fine line between mysterious and unpleasant. Additionally, the best profiles also had the most intriguing images. They were often filled with colour and showed a genuine personality. Selfies are mediocre but the bee wants the flower with the most character, so perhaps use pictures of you travelling or partaking in a hobby. 

Unlike other dating apps, an advantageous feature Bumble is that it only allows the female to start a conversation with their match. Having an app that is so female orientated creates a sense of safety and a has a non-traditional value in which the male does not make the first move. Another compelling feature is that there is a 24 hour time cap to begin a conversation with your match including an additional 24 hours in which your match can respond. This gives only 2 days to strike up a conversation with someone, differing to other dating sites where the match can be kept on hold and dragged out for several months. This urges you to make a move as fast as possible meaning more bees buzz faster! Although, if the female does not start a conversation with her match, then there is an option for the male to use a ‘daily extend’, where you can remain matched for an additional day.

In my experience, the best conversation starters go along the lines of “Hey, how you doing?” or simply asking about their day. This will allow your match to open up and get the conversation going. A simple “hello” will not give your match a lot of work with, neither will a cringey pick up line. I started nearly all my conversations with a “Hey, how you doing?” followed by something that intrigued me about their profile. Once I received a reply from my matches, I was able to see who really had a genuine interest in me. 

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This was the only person who responded to the likes and interests of my profile which definitely got my attention, and I was intrigued to know more about them.
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I was a little confused by this one… he loves reading but hasn’t finished a book yet? I didn’t think it would be necessary continuing this conversation.
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And of course some just weren’t as serious as others.
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This was funny and flirtatious, again drawing me closer for more conversation.

The best response were the ones to reciprocate my questions and ask more about me.  My passion for crime novels and English literature was shared with a complete stranger and we were able to connect on a deeper level and speak more personally about ourselves so I began to develop a genuine interest in this person. This was my Bumble boy .That being said, this is how you can ‘over’ do things:

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You will know once the foundations of a potential relationship has been set when you begin to connect on other social media platforms other than the app itself. You begin to have a mix of constant flirting as well deep, meaningful heart to heart conversations and sending each other pictures of what we’ve come across in our day. For example; myself and Bumble boy would send each other pictures of the books we’re reading or bargains we’ve found at the supermarket for a few weeks or so (Yes, this is what adulting feels like). Then came the conversation of meeting up. He was always reassuring me that he did not want to push anything or make me feel uncomfortable in any way. Even so, just like most people, I felt anxious about meeting a stranger from the internet. He would always say “The worst case scenario is that I’m 50 and I’m fat but we are meeting in a public gallery and I most definitely not kill you!” – bearing in mind we both love crime novels and always come up with ways to kill each other when we’re flirting (grim, but sexy). 

The thought of meeting someone from online may sound daunting, and there are correct ways to approach this. Do meet in a public space – you will never know the intentions of the person you are meeting and even if you think you know them, you can never be sure. Make your place of meeting easily accessible for the both of you. You don’t need to travel lengths to meet someone for the first time, why not meet in the middle? Always let a close friend or family member know where you are at all times and what you’re doing – prepare for the worst case scenario. My match and I decided to meet up at a gallery in London during the afternoon. It had many visitors but was also quiet enough so we could communicate with each other clearly. We went on a long walk through Hyde Park and I showed him my favourite spots in London (since he was new to the city). Don’t pressure yourself to make a move with your match, first let the conversation flow and learn to feel comfortable in each others’ presence. If it was not meant to be, you will know so always prepare to be disappointed at least in the slightest.

I have a humiliating history of not being asked out on a second date. To my surprise, Bumble boy messaged me after our meeting and told me he enjoyed my company and would like to meet again. Triumph! I mainly think this was because I went to our date with no expectations. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to look amazing or be funny like I would do on most other dates, I also didn’t have any expectations from him..

Why I don’t belong in a kitchen.

Although my guilty pleasure is watching mukbangs on Youtube or bingeing on the Food Network channel on a Saturday night, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that I cannot cook. The only times you’ll find me in the kitchen is raiding the fridge in the middle of the night on the hunt for sapid snacks.

According to Lorraine Pascale, “anything that goes in the oven is baking”, so with that being said, I took on the challenge of my first ever bake. No, not just some basic oven lasagne- I mean a real bake, a cake.

After a simple google search for the best yet easiest carrot cake recipes, I finally found one which was fit for me even though I just didn’t have a lot of the ingredients on that list and so, I switched things up a little:

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175g light muscavado sugar = 200g brown sugar (I don’t know what muscavado means)

140g grated carrot = an awful lot of hard work

100g raisins = NONE because who enjoys raisins in a cake?

1tsp bicarbonate of soda= 1tsp baking powder (I’m not technical in anyway)

1tsp cinnamon = 2tbs cinnamon to celebrate my Sri Lankan heritage

Everything else remains the same.

As I was doing this, I began to reminisce a song from my childhood. Stephanie from Lazytown sang “You gotta do the cooking by the book, you know you can’t be lazy; never use a messy recipe, the cake will end up crazy”. Well, I do hope Stephanie grew to her senses because adapting a recipe to my own needs DOES NOT make me lazy, and I definitely will not stick to the recipe because I am not a conforming individual and Stephanie should really just get out of my head and stop telling me what to do. Anyway, I digress. 

People often say that baking is easy since you whack everything into a bowl and it’s done. That is easier said than done. My sister peered inside my mixing bowl and said “You’re mixture’s split”. Since I didn’t know what that meant and I’ve done five more laps around the planet than her and have collected ever so much wisdom, I ignored her snarky comment and carried on. Nigella Lawson taught me how to grease my pan and lightly dust it with flour to stop the batter from sticking. So I did, less stylishly and more maddened than Lawson as by this point I realised why it had taken me 18 years to finally have the reason to use an oven. I don’t belong in the kitchen or have any interest in being in one. Long story short; I dusted the finished product in icing sugar (to cover the burnt bits) and presented a bog-standard looking carrot cake to my family.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS: The perception of women having to “belong in a kitchen” died long ago, though there will always be people hinting about the concept to this day. I truly believe that in order to abolish this, all women must take their own fields of interest and exceed at it by taking full control. It doesn’t take a genius to say that I’m awful at cooking but only a fool will tell me that I am an awful woman because I cannot cook. I wish to exert my energy into passions of mine and stand down from the stereotypes that I have been labelled.