Small Celebrations

It is not an easy relationship.

In a lot of ways, I have already lost my father.

I think it was over two decades ago when he decided to retire early from his job. That in itself would not have been bad, but after his retirement, as his best plans (if ever that was a plan) succumbed to recession and a company undergoing loss, all his decisions began to smell, first, like confusion, and very quickly, a loss of respect. He saw that most starkly in his wife. The wife who chose to follow him everywhere, any how, whose questions he had silenced with, “What do you know of such matters? Don’t bother me about all this now. Maybe later.”

Later never came.

Now was always early in the morning still, or mid afternoon, or too late in the evening or night for talk about the future or money or investments. She taught herself to value peace and security and love over conflict and fear because he had a temper. They had been together many years, but a part of her was always afraid because she had left her family behind to follow this man. She couldn’t upset the status-quo. She wouldn’t.

And at the time, still, there was trust. Then he saw that trust disappear from her eyes. He saw her joints swell up, and how she aged in a span of months. But she wouldn’t let up about using the little funds they were left with after they lost everything, to build a house.

So he did.

He travelled sixteen kilometers everyday, ate with the labourers, smoked copious cigarettes, slept often in a makeshift shed, burnt himself in the sun but he built that house.

Was that when the rage built?

After the house was completed, he looked worn-out. At the housewarming, his skin was blackened and spotty, his feet were cracked, and the silk dhoti barely masked anything as his callused hands shook those of his guests. He didn’t laugh as much nor entertain as he used to do. He was simply burnt out.

In the new house, he took to sleeping and resting to catch up on all the comforts he had missed for those six months it had taken him to build it. Little things had him flying into a rage against the wife. And me. Soon they were no longer even verbal. He used hands and shoves. Years of weight training, body building, and cross country running made his body strong. It was like being slapped by a sheet of iron.

One of the lines that struck me and has stayed with me about Elizabeth 1, the movie, was how she said, “I am my father’s daughter.” I am. When someone hits me, I fight back. He had taught me that even as I was a baby. “Don’t start a fight ever. If someone does, fight for your rights.” Now, in hindsight, it’s a bizzare thing to teach a six year old daughter. But I am grateful for that lesson, that spirit. This is who I am. I am my father’s daughter. And unlike my mother who always chose peace, tears, and pacification, I exploded with equal violence, blood curdling screams, and language.

I was working in a new organisation. Infosys. It was the most middle class, conservative workplace one could work at, but I made friends with people who were all outliers. But even with them, I couldn’t share the secrets of my family life, the horror and shame of it. But I knew enough to take him to a psychiatrist. We even did an MRI and collected the reports. But what a row we had on returning home! We never went back to the hospital.

The rage continued. The sleep continued. It was always volatile at home. I never learnt to give in nor give up on a fight. He accused me of sleeping around with all my male friends. I fought back like the wildcat he himself had raised.

I left Infosys, joined Yahoo! simply because they paid so well. My father never seemed to care about any of my decisions. He had always encouraged me to think independently for myself but this was just callous. My heart, my people, my most favourite tasks were still at Infy. Yahoo! was a dream employer but I couldn’t appreciate it as much as I should have. I was miserable. Then the man I was hoping to marry, broke up with me, saying most unscientifically that I would never have kids because I had PCOD and was overweight, and he wanted to have kids immediately. The marriage had been his idea.

Seething, indignant, thoroughly helpless, I became my mother’s daughter. My joints swelled up; I couldn’t open doors or Bisleri bottles, or tear chapatis. It was visible to everyone how much pain I was in. My manager asked me to work from home. And that’s when things got worse.

My father slept all day, flew into rages, refused to follow basic hygiene, flew into more rages when we asked him to shower or shave. I also noticed the indiscreet masturbation. After many weeks, I mustered the courage to share that with my mother. When she finally confronted him on it, there was an epic battle. This time when he charged towards me to beat me, I picked up a steel chair to kill him. The screaming and the ruckus brought in a kind neighbour, a four year old child, who rushed to get his mother. She hurried in and tried to calm us down. I decided that he needs to go to a home or a centre. I decided to break my silence about the situation at home and talk about it to my friends. The support and love helped. But the stress never went away. There was no apology. There was no change in behaviour. My father who had always treated me like I were the best person in the universe would spit at me and slap me every instance he got. And I would fight back each time.

My mother weakened, lost weight, lived in pain, and began to resemble a bird.

I developed a neurological condition. My right arm would fold up and twitch painfully all on its own at random times. The neurologist made me undergo all sorts of tests, but besides the rheumatoid arthritis and the thyroid, there was nothing new in the blood work. Then he asked me, “Are you stressed?”

The whole story came tumbling out. He immediately asked to see the MRI. We rushed back with the six year old MRI report the same day and there it was, clear as filtered water, when he showed us the frontal lobe.

That was the tumour. Everything my father had become was the tumour. My Papa was not a terrible person. He really was the loving, respectable, clean, enabling dad he had always been. He was lost under the tumour. The relief was short-lived. The doctor said, “How is he still alive? He must be in excruciating pain. We have to operate immediately. Even if we do, I can’t guarantee the outcome.”

We lied to my father. We told him we were to go to the hospital for me so he wouldn’t get violent. He grudgingly agreed. Once there, with burly attendants around, I told him that we were going to do a complete examination of him. To my surprise, he looked relieved.

“How will you afford all this?” that was his first question. I assured him about insurance. He became super cooperative, even friendly after that. He confessed to debilitating headaches to the doctor thinking he was alone with him. It was the fear of hospital costs that had kept him quiet. He didn’t want to burden me so he had suffered his pain in silence for all those years. I stood outside the door and sobbed with my mother and hoped I would get to forgive and love my father again.

The change immediately after the surgery was palpable. He called out to my mom and me at the ICU. His voice was drenched in love and concern. We hadn’t felt that from him for over eight years.

For nearly ten years after, he was his old self but slightly slower at functioning. He is a clever man so you could see the slowness only if you looked very closely. He shaved and showered everyday, cleaned the house, socialised with people, spent the remaining of his meagre savings in more poor investments. He never hit us again even if we fought.

Then the forgetting began along with apathy. Early onset of dementia in the frontal lobe, perhaps owing to the tumour, we were told.

Now he gets scared easily. He fidgets with things. He rarely likes to talk. When he does, nothing he says makes much sense. He lacks empathy. He gets angry very often. He still doesn’t hit us though sometimes he acts as if he would. But even with all this, he tries to help my mother and me around the house. He never gets off the car without asking me which of my many bags he can carry for me. This when his own walk isn’t stable any more. At the dining table, he always tries to force more food on me. He tries to help my mother in the kitchen often doubling the work for her in the process because he really can’t do most tasks. When we are out of sight for long, he gets extremely anxious.

But sometimes, I see the glimmers of who he was all those years ago before his tumour ruined our family.

A sharp dresser who loved expensive perfume, a man who was always the heart of the parties, his stories and goodness delighting and thrilling his audience, a man who would always put himself at a disadvantage to ensure the wellness of others. He was a righteous fighter, full of strong beliefs, at once kind, powerful, and intimidating.

I remember what a fantastic father he was – the reason I had the most spectacular childhood.

He always spoke to me as if I were his equal, even when I was little more than six years old. He respected what I said. It was my decision when I was all of twelve, that we should build our house where we currently live and not in Vijayanagar where we also had property then. Back then, this area was nothing but fields. There was no Outer Ring Road. ITPL wasn’t even being talked about. But he promised me that’s what he would do because I fell in love with this land; it was an instinct. He kept this promise.

Unlike my mother who often punished me for arguing with my mean relatives, he heard me out. He scolded me when I was wrong but if I were right, and I often was because my relatives are shudder-inducing, he would applaud me. “Fight for your rights,” he would say and kiss me.

He was the nurse in our house when we fell sick. His hands warm, gentle, and reassuring would caress my body and it was enough. I still get him to massage my aches away sometimes. It’s not the same.

We both shared a smoke while on holiday last month. I knew it would be the last holiday we would ever take together as a family. But I wasn’t prepared for his deterioration outside his routine. He was severely stressed and disoriented throughout our trip. We cut it short by days and returned early. As we waited to leave Wayanad, we stood together watching the rain from our Airbnb balcony. He had no idea where we were. He kept telling me that the house was lucky. His voice was full of love for me. I thought he would dislike the fact that I was out smoking. Instead he joined me. I could tell that he was happy to smoke with me, and he regaled me with a story of his father, an excellent swimmer, swimming in Mangalore. It’s the first time in my life that I had heard a story about my grandfather. For those few seconds, we spoke again like equals.

Three weeks later, and his brain doesn’t even miss tobacco any more. On his own, without even realising it, he gave up smoking, thanks to the dementia. Such is the wonder of this disease.

So today, when I saw all the father-child pictures on WhatsApp and Facebook I told him cheerily that it’s Father’s Day. “Happy Father’s Day, papa,” I said not really expecting him to register or recognise.

“Oh. Thank you, putta,” he said surprising me. He looked pleased.

So today was a good day in the Anand household. Our relationship for those few seconds today became light, loving, easy, and happy again.

Posted in Blue Funk, Happy Days, Idle Thoughts, In Sickness and In Health | 3 Comments

A Birthday Message

I disliked her on sight. No. That’s not true. When I sent her an email (warm, friendly, inclusive) in response to her introductory one, she had replied ‘Thanks’ not even a ‘Thank you’. I was disappointed because her email made her out to be fun and friendly.

This was at Infosys Technologies. I had already put in my papers and was serving a notice period of one month because I didn’t have the heart to leave the company earlier. I had two more weeks left and that’s when she joined. And this email exchange happened.

Two days later, a common friend brought her for coffee when we were all hanging out. He didn’t check with us if it was Okay. To this day, I blame him and bless him for forcing the people on me who would go on to become my family. Back then, I was super resentful and mad. Not least because she seemed to look down her nose at everything.

We were young, all of us in our early 20s, though we felt very old and worldly, full of maniacal energy, loud, wild, attention-seekers (We didn’t ask for it; it came our way because we were so loud and brazen) and disgustingly clique-y.

One of us, the one most impressed with outward beauty, gushed over her jewellery. Beads. They were just beads. I looked at him incredulously. She cemented my dislike by saying, “A friend of mine got it for me from Tibet/Bhutan/scenic Himalayan place after drinking Yak’s milk and sacrificing five goats.” I exaggerated. What I heard: Exclusive.

‘Oho’, I thought, ‘Let us avoid this wannabe Kannadiga type person.’

Everyone was friendly with her. The traitors. She was new. She was utterly beautiful. She was a Classical Indian beauty in her navy salwar and her big (Gigantic) eyes rimmed smokily with kaajal. She looked like she would make any man swoon. She seemed like she was everybody’s type. Hell, if she were less show-offy and stuck up, she would be my type.

But maybe I was judging her too hastily. I always make snap judgments, often unfavourable, only to change them later. It’s a skill and one of the worst things about me. So we were all going drinking to Purple Haze that Friday. We would even be dressed in purple. All seven of us. So fun. Yes!

“Why don’t you join us?” I threw it at her knowing that I would regret it if she accepted, if she really were stuck-up.

But the hate was sealed when she said, “I don’t go to places like that. I don’t like hard rock and heavy metal. You guys have a great time.”

Such blasphemy. She would never have a place in my heart or life, I decided.

That same friend who was taken in by her told me later that day, “No. Didn’t you see her eyes? She had so much sadness. She’s probably going through a lot. We must take her into the group. We must show her a good time. I am telling you she’s dealing with some tragedy.”

And like the susceptible-to-stormy-emotion-fool I used to be, I forgave her high-handedness, ignored that she chatted using shortforms on messenger (she used to then), made a date to meet her for coffee on Sunday to hear her story and figure out the reason for the sad eyes.

That coffee date at the Leela Palace led to dinner invites, to a forced sleepover at her place where I chewed her ear off with my opinions and stories, divorce, heartbreak, death of a parent, dating woes, a wedding, outings, holidays, festivals, hospitals, fights, drunken episodes (we are both melancholic drunks), international holidays, workshops, exhibitions, museums, beaches, shopping…

She wormed her way into my life most forcefully and never left, no matter how badly I behaved. I have never had a sibling but she is it. She’s the voice of my conscience and comfort.

Nearly fifteen years later, I got rid of her somewhat. She went off to Melbourne, Australia, and so I write public love notes to celebrate her birthday and to thank her for being my sister, my family, my friend all these years.

A year ago, when I had a surgery, I had a panic attack coming out of the anaesthesia. It’s apparently expected when one has panic disorder. When the doctors got me to breathe somewhat and when I could mumble (I was still woozy and barely breathing), I prescribed the medication they were to give me. The doctor laughed and said that she would give me something else. In that haze, frustrated, unable to gain control, feeling like I wasn’t getting through to the doctors, I said, “Call my sister. Call Manasee. She will know what to do.”

So. Like that.

MonTs, we will always have Dubai.

Posted in Idle Thoughts | Leave a comment

How to eat a Mangosteen

Do you recognise compatibility while grocery shopping? You can always tell a lot about relationships while watching two people shop for groceries together.

There’s a rhythm, nearly sexual, when he picks the bread, and you add the cheese. He puts back the Coke. “Uh uh.” He nods. So you retaliate by picking out the family pack of crisps. “No,” you say. He shrugs. But he smiles. You both always buy fruits. A variety of them. Everything summer and imports in Germany have to offer. He picks out the mangosteen. You collect the the mangoes and bananas. He adds avacados, cherry tomatoes, and you both smile at each other over the mirabels. He pays for the grocery so you buy him flowers outside Reve.

As you walk back home, you twirl a pink peony under your nose because he won’t let you carry any luggage, except for the eggs and the flowers.

If this were a painting, you would be the little girl holding the adult hand, twirling a flower, a tiny basket in her hand, and skipping in joy with the summer wind teasing her hair.

At home, you are the adult. You put away things in their baskets, in the refrigerator. You do it quickly and with authority. You expect to be congratulated, praised. ‘Daddy, look!’ you want to say. But he is busy arranging flowers in the vase. He opens the wine bottle, pours you a glass, and brings it to you. The little girl moment is over. You cook quietly in the kitchen, sipping wine.

“The mirabels aren’t sweet,” he calls out.

“What did you expect? Let’s hope the mangoes are. They were frightfully expensive.”

“Fruits are good for your health. Don’t think about the money. Have them for breakfast tomorrow. I want to eat the mangosteen now.”

“I have never eaten one before.”

“What! Really?”

“Yes. This will be my first time. I don’t even know how to eat it.” you say drying your hands on the dish cloth. The quick pongal you set out to make should be ready in five minutes. Already, the asofoetida, which you used with caution, permeates the apartment. He lights incense, opens the windows.

The sun refuses to set in summer in Europe. But today, there’s a sweet summer breeze that brings out the smell of frying meat from a neighbour’s house down below. You can hear children laughing on the street.

He picks the mangosteen from the basket, gets a kitchen napkin, a knife and proceeds to teach you. “So,” he says, “you cut it along the head like this. Not too deep. You don’t want to ruin the pulp.” Next, he draws thin lines on the skin with the tip of the knife. He peels the fruit slowly, along the lines.

The white pulp shimmers.

“My grandmother used to like this a lot,” he says spooning the pulp, “Here.”

Your faces are close. You close your mouth over the spoon. His eyes search yours. “Well?”

“It’s interesting. I don’t know. It tastes like nothing I have had before.” You try to taste, chew, swallow. The texture is somewhat smooth, slightly grainy. It’s not unpleasant. It doesn’t have any smell.

“You only appreciate things that are sweet.” He is disappointed, irritable even. It doesn’t bode well for the evening.

“That’s not true. This is sweet. I love orange juice and that’s not sweet. Ha.” You know saying this will amuse him.

“Woman, do you know how much sugar they add to orange juice?” He laughs at your ignorance as expected.

“Whatever. My point is it doesn’t taste sweet. Give me some more.” You reach out for the pulp and the spoon.

He pulls it away, scoops more of the pulp and eats it. “I thought you didn’t like it.”

“I said, it’s interesting. When did I say that I didn’t like it?”

“But I know you don’t like it.”

“It’s my first time eating this. I can’t just take to it, you know.”

“See. I knew you didn’t like it.”

“I need to eat more before I can decide. Peel the next one.”

The whistle from the pressure cooker deflates a quickly escalating scenario. He decides to peel another mangosteen while you scamper to the kitchen to turn off the stove.

“I told you not to add too much asofoetida. It’s stinking up the place.” The harmony of the previous compatibility at the supermarket is lost. The evening can end any which way now. You are determined to keep it pleasant and agreeable. “I didn’t add a lot, darling. How can you make pongal without any? I just added a pinch.”

“Do you want this fruit?” You peep from the kitchen. He has peeled the second fruit. The hard, deep purple rinds look pretty but abandoned against the white kitchen towel.

“I do. But go ahead and eat it if you want. We’re anyway going to have dinner now.”

“I knew you wouldn’t like it.” His shoulder slumps a bit as he says it. He spoons the pulp.

“I really don’t have any opinion on it.” You wearily return to the table. He offers the spoon, raises an eyebrow. This is less sweet than the previous one. It still tastes like nothing you know. It’s underwhelming at best.

“They are very good for you.” He is making an effort to be agreeable too. It gives you hope. Maybe the evening can be salvaged, after all. It gives you courage. You quip, “I am sure. It tastes like something that would be.”

“Are you mocking the fruit?” He places the knife under your chin. You look up at him and make your eyes big, the expression that always amuses him. “I wouldn’t dare. Let’s have a mango after dinner. Now, that’s really a fruit.” He taps the tip of the knife on your nose. There’s a hint of a smile.

You move his hand away and walk to the kitchen. “Darling, let’s eat the pongal when it’s hot.”

He follows you in, takes out the clean plates, wipes them down, “All you think about is taste.”

“That’s only because you don’t think about it enough.” You open the pressure cooker and the aroma of India assails you. You serve the pongal on the plates he’s kept out on the counter. He is already at the table, cleaning out the purple rinds. You bring in the plates. He pours out more wine. “It looks pretty. It’s a nice, deep purple.” You offer as if it were a gallery and you had to compliment the artist.

“You don’t have to give it a consolation prize. You don’t know a thing about eating a mangosteen.” He says.

“I never said I was an expert,” you roll your eyes at him. In defiance, you spoon the hot rice and lentils. It tastes divine.

He heads to the kitchen and brings out the pickle jar. It’s the one his grandmother had made for him. Something clicks for you. Now you get why this was important. It’s too late to change, though. He adds a small spoonful of pickle to his plate. He offers to add some on your plate. You refuse not because you don’t want it, but because you know he hoards it like the prized possession it is.

He reads you like you were an open book with extra large font. He spoons the pongal, adds the pickle and gives you the first bite. You moan at how good it tastes. “So. What were you saying about my taste?” He sounds smug, supercilious, all that he is.

“Just that your sense of taste is divine. I shouldn’t argue with you, my master, big daddy. Forgive me. Let’s eat a mango after this. Please.”

He smiles satisfied. “Do you know the first rule of eating a mangosteen?”

You sip wine lazily looking at him, “I’m afraid you are going to tell me.”

“Never compare it to a mango.”

You both burst out laughing at the same time. It’s going to be a decent evening, after all.

Posted in Idle Thoughts | 2 Comments

Epiphany

At 41, I feel buoyant, free, and full of fire.

Of course, the fear of the Corona Virus seems to be fading from our consciousness, even as the disease refuses to fade. Traffic is back, violent and full on Bangalore roads, the Namma Metro construction continues unabated in my ears thanks to our proximity to two metro lines, and my love affair with the Korean Entertainment Industry (KEI) deepens.

In fact, a carelessly certified counsellor (because anyone in India can do a brief, certificate course and become a therapist) will definitely liken it to an addiction and urge AA and its 12 steps on me.
Fun Fact: In India, literally, anyone can print out an officious certificate on anything from psychiatry, writing courses, to diet and nutrition.

But I am happy and I am coping. With a fair bit, might I add — dad’s dementia, my work, ensuring my mom is not overworked or unhappy or stressed, financial woes, bills, my writing, my anxiety, my arthritic health and its resultant concomitants.

My chosen family and support system rallies around with fun, advice, money, and food.
So I mostly don’t feel lonely, overwhelmed, or overburdened.

And so, I greeted turning 41 on the 23rd of May, singing Epiphany by Jin from BTS (my dearly beloved Bangtan boys, saranghamnida) and realising just how much I am indebted to Korea today. The song is all about loving oneself. Of course, it’s a no-brainer and everyone loves themselves in their own way. But the song speaks about acceptance and celebration, in spite of the warts, including the warts.

It is a good anthem to begin one’s birthday with, and sure enough, I ended up having one of those golden sunshine days (Blondon cooperated; the rains stopped; the cyclone ended) full of love, cake, food, and friends and lovers. Perfection.

But such is life.

Into each shinning day, a little rain must fall, and I woke up to a most bizarre message from a cousin I am not even close to. Readers of this blog will know that I social-distanced from relatives even before it became a necessity with corona, because they are typical Kannadiga Brahmins. We mustn’t typecast, but if the shoe fits…

She was sure that I had tried and failed to lose weight many times in the past. But if I worked with her, I would now be able to not only lose weight but also get rid of all my pills. Would I claim this wonderful opportunity?

The message was very polite. In good English. I would like to think it was well-meaning too.

I mean, of course, which person in this world doesn’t want to actively lose weight?
Subscribe to that undesirable, socially-constructed, present-day beauty standards’ narrative?
I mean, we see that so rampantly in the KEI too.
And what fool wouldn’t want to save thousands of rupees on medicines, and go medicine-free, and live (as my wise mom says) for at least 900 years?

Except, I have been singing Epiphany from the time my new love Jin would have been a babe in his mother’s womb, or a sperm in his dad. And I have no desire for immortality.

It was early in the morning.

I didn’t want to start the day with a ‘OMG, I had no idea you wanted to have sex with me. I’m so sorry that’s not advisable because however much we want to run away from it, we are cousins. It would be incest. Not to mention that I really don’t have sex with women. So sorry. No homophobia implied. You do you. Pride. Rainbow. Salute. I swear I am an ally.’

So I sent out a tame, ‘thank you for the offer but I am not interested’ text.

She replied with a no-problem, and it really should have been that.

But I was perplexed. I also saw this as a teaching moment.
You know what they say about not being able to take the teacher out and all that.

Never in my life had I discussed weight or my health with her. We simply didn’t have that equation.
And I have nothing to discuss about the way I look with anyone, unless it’s to acknowledge compliments.

As far as I knew, she was neither a doctor, nor nutritionist, nor even a physiotherapist. What then was this sales pitch?

I asked my mom. My mom then told me of a similar call from her a while back. And my mom had already told her politely and laughingly that we would not be interested. Apparently, she had subscribed to Herballife or something similar. I immediately recalled her posts that were all about losing 5, 10, and so on kgs in so many days. I had dutifully done my cousinly duty (while cringing about the obvious insecurity, fat-shaming, and lack of body-positivity) and liked them because her pursuits seemed to make her happy and proud.

So I asked her if it was a generic sales pitch.

To which she replied that it wasn’t. In her “nutrition club” they talk about the side effects of medication and she had immediately thought about me. She wanted me to achieve “holistic well-being” while “losing weight” and getting “med free.”

Stop the press.

I am not sorry to say, dear readers, I used my teaching moment, and I told her off.
Extremely strongly, but politely.

After telling me how while she herself might not be a qualified doctor/nutritionist/physiotherapist (that was my sticking point), she would connect me to her certified coaches (refer my certificates discussion from above) and getting told off again for being wholly unsolicited and so extremely unappreciated, to her credit, she did finally apologize.
It was already too late.
I politely thanked her and the entire absurd, unnecessary discussion ended amicably enough with her wishing me a good day. I continued to be cold and clipped. My acknowledgement just to be gracious, was a thumbs-up emoji. I didn’t even change the skin tone.

But, now that I am a wizened 41 (at least that’s my excuse this time), I am going to also tell other people who might be reading, what’s what:

  1. We are in 2022, in the middle of a global fucking pandemic still, can we all quit obsessing about other people’s weight, height, hair, age, and health, unless we are their caregivers or partners? And can we, please the Goddess, keep that private?
    If you have nothing good to say about something, say nothing.

  2. Be accepting of your bodies.
    I have always loved the way I looked, but being severely immuno-compromised, even disabled occasionally, really taught me the beauty and magic of my own body. If I nurture it, I am well-looked after in return. I obviously do all that works for me to keep it moving and stable, in spite of my severe health issues. It is the nature of the body to constantly give and allow one to do all that one does. Every body is a miracle. Respect that.

  3. If you are not going to have consensual sex with a particular body, you have no right to comment on it.

  4. Have consensual sex with a body that appeals to you. It saves everyone much heartache.
    Nearly all the good lovers I have had, have loved, nay, worshipped my body. Which is how it’s supposed to be. And, let me assure any doubting readers that they are all men the world would call respectable, clever, tall, well-built, and handsome. So give up on the losers who make you feel insecure about the way you look. It’s a way to control you and play you. You don’t need that.

  5. For the love of the Goddess, don’t presume to advise people on their health if you are not qualified. If you are qualified beyond sales pitches and WhatsApp forwards, please refrain from advising anyway, unless they ask you for it.
    No point in squandering your knowledge for free and not earning your worth.

  6. Health, especially ill health, is very distinctive and individual, and covid has taught us that there’s no one-size fits all. We all had very different symptoms and reactions to the virus and the vaccine, if you recall. It should tell you something, even if you are a half-wit.

  7. Be mindful, especially, when you want to do good. Don’t presume that people don’t know or do what’s good for them already. Unless they explicitly say so and ask you for help.
    By all means, talk about how losing weight feels great to you because it’s your desire and you blindly subscribe to toxic normative belief systems. Don’t assume that desire for others.
    I can tell you that in the past year, the KEI saved my life, even so far as acting as a deterrent to depression and anxiety, and if you ask me for recommendations, I can give that to you, but what sense does it make for me to buy you Rakuten or Dramacool or Netflix subscriptions without even checking with you first? Or inviting you to BTS and Song Kang’s Live Meets saying it will change your life?

  8. Lastly, and this is a communication rule I am dispersing for free, and so I am not following my own advice (in Point 5): Know your fucking audience before trying to fuck with them.
    Bitches like me are blissfully immersed in our K-Drama and K-Pop world, but disturb us with any of the above, and know that we are on a mission to set you right and educate you.
    I mean, it’s my tag line; I have to.
    If we are polite and icy when we do it, trust me, it stings more.

Naturally, I recognise that these very practical, learnt-the-hard-way suggestions (because I am no righteous, blameless, all-knowing saint) are meaningless, and people will continue their onward marches on the road to hell, with their questionable good intentions, undeterred.
So be it.
It’s people like my cousin with her kids who have to deal with the fucked-up-ness of the world, ad nauseum, because of said kids and pill-free, weight-lost immortality.
I have no progeny who will inherit this world, so my advice to create a brighter, happier, egalitarian world, is really only charity from me at this point.
You are welcome.

But for those of you with an open mind, please, think about what I am saying.
Think about what you mindlessly say to others and how that makes you sound.
Respect personal boundaries.

Listen to Jin. Love yourself. That’s the answer. Start with kindness for yourself.
What good comes from messing about with other people? Hollow entertainment? Shallow satisfaction?
The world has more to offer you than that. Claim it.
Life is so very short, uncertain, and largely unhappy.
Be free. Be kind. Be loved.

My birthday is a testimony to how wonderful it is to be loved and respected by so many people.
If I sound smug or righteous, forgive me. I only mean to be grateful and acknowledge how little I have done for these good people in my life, but how much I have received from them. It inspires me to try mindfulness, love, kindness, and grace, above all else.

So, as I turn older, I pledge to look after myself more and do more with my life and my work.
Hence, this post too.
I will be happy, full of fun and fire, and continue to love myself like crazy.

Because, that, really, is all it is.

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Pygmalion

It is so hard. 
This is what I want to tell you. 
But you know that. 
That is what scared you. 
Your fear immobilised me. 
But now, it's different. 
And you know that. 
So instead, I want to show you how well I am doing, in spite of it all. 

My head's high. 
I walk straight and tall. 
The wind blows my red hair wild. 
I smile easily. 
Strangers jump to help me. 
Kindness envelopes me wherever I go. 
Laughter follows. 
This is the narrative I want you to know. 

But this too you know. 

I do not unravel anymore. 
There is no falling apart. 
After you, I put myself together. 
I did it so well, there are zero cracks. 
Not even old music can penetrate the inviolable fortress I am. 
The soft, lilting melodies blow in heavy as if they were carrying rain. 
I hear them. 
I feel their moistness even. 
But I no longer sink in the dampness. 
I no longer cry. 
This is why I no longer need to talk. 

You know this too. 
That's why you never listen to those songs. 
You have moved on. 
I know this as if you told me all this a hundred times just last night. 
Saying things is so redundant. 
So obviously we have nothing to talk about. 
We know. 
I know all the unspeakable, indefinable truths about you. 
I used to be afraid of this knowledge. 
My fear led you to flee. 
Or was it my acceptance? 
It doesn't matter. 
I know that too. 
So do you. 
I know how you walk still, the way you apply sunscreen so meticulously, that quick narrowing of your eyes in temper, the way you laugh. 

I can conjure you up. 
I created you. 
What else is there to say? 
They say you are a piece of work. 
But you are my best work. 
And it's been so hard. So so hard. 
This is what I want to tell you. 
Admire your maker. 
This is the plea I carry in my heart. 
For you. 
But you know this. 
And so I know you will deny me. 
Forever. 
For a second. 
We are but one - you and I. 
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