Monday, 16 September 2019

Pravda, or would YOU want to know?

I was browsing through Facebook this morning when I came across a wedding anniversary announcement from someone I knew a long, long time ago. 
25 years of bliss and happiness! it announced. I stared at the photo, memories flooding in. 
The truth is, I know for a fact that marriage is not quite as blissful as you’d expect a blissful marriage to be. I know for a fact because I know something about the husband. 
The funny thing about truth is that it hits people suddenly, uninvited, unexpected, from some unpredictable source. 
I was thinking, looking at the couple’s happy smiling faces, that maybe they are happy now. That is possible, right? So what that many years ago the husband, a very quiet skinny dude, hung out with a hooker in Baku, and accidentally, I just happened to know the girl. I had, you see, met her in a sauna literally few weeks before then, in a hotel spa, where I had commented, in my unorthodox style, how beautiful her breasts were. She liked that, we introduced ourselves, I then ran into her in a bar, we said hello…and just at that moment, imagine the luck, this skinny dude friend of mine came to the bar to buy a drink. She said hi and stuck her beautiful breasts at him. He pretended he didn’t notice and scurried off. She smiled and said to me, with simplicity and openness only hookers possess: this one was so generous
Whoa! I know, right? Imagine the chances of that. It happened so long ago, in Baku days, and I didn’t tell anyone in our circle of friends. And I guess, till now, the wife is blissfully unaware. 
As they say, what you don’t know can’t hurt you.
Do we actually want to know the truth, is what I am wondering? Would you want to know?
Years ago, I thought yes. Definitely yes. For me, I always preferred the truth. But as I grow older, I wonder if that’s such a good idea. Look at this couple. What if I had told someone?
A colleague of mine was chatting with me the other day when he suddenly announced that I looked different after my procedure. In what way, I asked. “Older” he happily replied. 
Go back to your effin' desk, I said, and stay there. Did I want to hear I looked older, or more tired, or whatever it was? No. Something so small, just a light-hearted comment, really upset me that day. I came home and didn’t even want to look in the mirror. 
Just imagine, I was thinking to myself, how depressing life would be, if we all knew the truth about what is going on around us? And if we only told the truth to each other? 
How many of those radiant Facebook smiles would fade! But here’s the thing… Most of the time, we do know, we would know, if we wanted to. We just don’t want to. 
I know that I don’t look my best right now. It is natural and expected after what happened. Trust me, I know because nobody knows better than me what's wrong with me
I also know when I put some weight on, or when my roots are starting to show and need touching up. I know! And don’t need you to tell me. 
If I am feeling down, I know I am. I don’t need you telling me I look miserable. If I have a badly behaving spoiled brat of a child, trust me, nobody else is more aware of that than me. If I have marital issues, I will be more aware of them than any of you, because I am a woman and I know these things. Every woman, however well she hides it, knows, with this gut instinct we all have, when she isn’t really in a blissful relationship. And if she chooses not to see things, it is because she chose not to. Not because she is blind or stupid. Maybe she is just very smart. Or maybe just weak. Whatever her reasons are, she chose not to know. 
You became very Western, an old friend told me recently when we were once again having a fight about something insensitive she had said to me. You just want me to say nice things you want to hear. And not the truth. And that’s what real friends do, tell the truth. I don’t know, I said, maybe. But why do you feel the need to tell me something unpleasant? And don’t you think I already probably know it?
As my friend, protect me. This life is already difficult and can be painful. Protect my feelings by saying I look pretty today. So what if I look like shit. Just lie. Support me with my diet by saying I look slimmer already, even if I had only skipped one toast at breakfast. Tell me I will be fine even if you think I probably won’t be. That’s what I want. More innocent lies. And as for truth….stick it where the sun don’t shine. 

Friday, 6 September 2019

About clogged arteries and surprises

Recently, I came across someone on Instagram whom I started following out of sick curiosity. Every time she posts a nude photo of herself, I go ewwwww!
I then send it to my friends who go ewwww!!! What the hell is wrong with you! why are you sending me this? 
But it is like looking at a sheep’s chopped off head during Eid celebrations. You don’t want to look and yet you still have to see
I am not sure, I think, this woman might also be an actress, but judging by her Instagram portfolio, her main claim to fame is being obese. She is naked in mostly all photos, looking- well, there is no nice way to describe her, so I will just share one cropped image for you here. I suspect they are meant to be cool, some romantic-with pretty flowers, one arty-with a flamingo…my favourite one is where she has another, average sized woman lying on top of her- for size comparison I guess, to make it more impressive. 
And of course, as you may easily imagine, she does occasionally get someone suggesting that she should try and eat more healthily, to which she, of course, understandably, suggests they go fuck themselves. Which I guess, is fair. Is her personal business how she looks, what she chooses to do to her body, and how she makes money from it. (the latest, lightly bronzed naked photo you can purchase as a postcard for $30) 
I personally don’t care what or who she is and what she is doing to her body. 
What does however, annoy me is that she is actively glorifying obesity. She is sending a message to other women, and most importantly, young girls, that it is, in fact, cool to be that fat. Be fat! She says. Be proud of it! 
I am not sure why, as soon as there is some issue in this world, trying to fix it, people tend go all the way into the opposite direction. Why can’t you people just, you know, stop somewhere in the middle?
I get it! Models were becoming anorexic, teenage girls were becoming obsessed with their weight and getting depressed, other women felt unsexy because they were a bit overweight…I get it. 
So, everybody started protesting. Beach body???? Who said beach body? What exactly is beach body? How dare you. My body is perfectly beachy, thanks very much. OK, I get it! But this??? 

This isn’t right. Come on. 
This?....Isn’t just about looks. It will actually kill you, being that obese. And I am now thinking that, going along with the new trend, more and more people are too afraid to say oh, come on, ffs! so that not to be called a fat-shaming asshole, and thus are sitting there silently, while people like this model becoming famous for…well for being obese and proud of it. There isn’t anything to be proud of there. 
And, as someone commented…she should watch those arteries getting clogged, having a heart attack and dying. 
Speaking of dying and clogged arteries, I had a pretty scary experience, as a result of which I ended up having two stents in my arteries just before my summer vacation. (and no, ironically, am not obese. Not yet, anyway, even though if I continued to eat like I did on this vacation in Singapore, that goal could be easily achieved)
What can I tell you. It was a scary experience. In hindsight, nothing particularly surprising, as I have had a lot of stress recently- who doesn’t? - and I smoked- occasionally, yet quite a few on those occasions…And drank- occasionally but quite A LOT on those occasions…And, I have family history of heart conditions… plus, my cholesterol was getting a little high. … Also, despite me staring in shock at the surgeon who told me I had a 100% and 80% blockages in one of the main arteries, having looked back at my whole life, I realised that even though in the last few years I was eating relatively healthily, it is the years and years of Azeri food (all those lamb chops, plovs and Russian salads layered with mayo) plus genetics that probably contributed to the crazy fucked-up situation I found myself in, as well as taking things too close to heart, as my Qatari colleague very correctly and quickly diagnosed. 
When my suspicious anxiety attacks would not go away, and what I thought was intercostal back muscle pain made it difficult to take a deep breath, I went to see the doctor who had to also treat this condition on my mother only recently here, in Doha. Thankfully, he scheduled a CT scan for me. I guess I was lucky that he took me seriously, as mostly all other doctors I had seen before him, and friends and family all suspected I was being hypochondriac, laughed at me and told me I probably had gas. 
It was a Thursday night, and having dropped my husband and the kids off at the airport (they were going on holiday a week before me), I was applying make-up to go out, when my doctor sent me a text asking if it was okay to call me. Shit, I thought. "Don’t worry" he said. "The CT scan tends to over-estimate. It will probably be a lot smaller of a blockage than it tells us." So…I went out and had a few cocktails that night. 
And, of course, I went to brunch with some friends the following Friday. It was summer in Doha! That’s when families and kids are away and those who stay behind, go out. So, I was enjoying my party time. However, I didn’t feel quite right. And so, even though I really didn’t fancy having an invasive angiogram while my family was away, I decided it was probably a good idea to just go for it, as going away on vacation not knowing just how bad things were seemed like maybe a less scary, but daft idea. 
I won’t bore you with details. What I found out during this scary time, is that people are actually amazing. Sometimes you think you would be alone and you find out you are not ever left alone- even when you actually want to be alone- to cry properly and excessively over your previous life, when you could eat as many chicken wings as you wanted, smoke if you wanted, and drink a bottle of prosecco…I needed time to mourn it all. But, help and emotional support came from everywhere- from the few friends who were still in Doha this summer to work colleagues who sent me flowers and wanted to visit. 

So I didn’t get a lot of time to cry and grieve over my party days. I cried a lot immediately after the procedure- well I had to, I had such a scare! And during the procedure, I was not allowed to cry. I had to stay calm, still and follow the instructions- breathe in, hold your breath, will you just STOP talking! And was mesmerised by an image of my beating heart on a huge screen next to me- pretty impressive, let me tell you. But straight after… I just couldn’t stop the tears. A Filipino nurse hovered over. She kept stroking my shoulder, repeating endlessly- "Why you cry? Don’t cry?..Just don’t eat fried food. Don’t cry. Just don’t eat fried food!" (Filipinos have this peculiar habit of repeating the same word or sentence quite a few times. Like my personal trainer who would not just ask if I liked George Clooney. He would ask “You like George Clooney? You like? You like? You like George?”) 
I really wanted to kill her, kill her...kill her. But I had needles sticking out of my hands and arms, my eyelash extensions were falling out, and I was feeling pretty scared and pretty…well, fucked. 
It is sad to realise you could have dropped dead without knowing it was coming. That’s a blinding flash of obvious. But it is also sad to realise you can’t be as carefree anymore and have to think before you pick up that glass, or eat a shawarma. My whole persona, my whole life, my cool sexy image I had created for myself in my head, all vanished in a puff of smoke. 
It also made me realize life can be full of surprises, some pleasant and some not so much. The nurse who sent me home from Emergency department having glanced over me quickly and making her mind up that I looked too fit to be having a heart emergency, was probably surprised to find out how wrong she was, and how, should I not have had my amazing doctor watching over me personally, I would maybe not be writing this blog right now. 
All my family and friends were surprised I could have had all that going on at my age, without any obesity, high blood pressure or any other obvious signs and problems…and realised life holds surprises for us all, at any unexpected time of our lives, in various ways. 
And, my personal surprise was that, while everybody’s first reaction to this story was OMG, you were alone? In Doha? in summer? Weren’t you scared to go through all that alone? The truth is- I was never alone, and did not feel alone, not for a minute. And that’s the bottom line of this long story. I had, bizarrely, despite all the shock and fear and unpleasant moments…quite a nice time. I got spoilt rotten, taken out, brought flowers and chocolates, showered with texts and offers of help…my lovely helper cooked healthy meals for me every day; and, on the first night I was home from the hospital, refused to go upstairs to her bed, and slept on the sofa, afraid to leave me alone. 
Usually I try and tie the ending of my posting to the beginning, you know, so it has a nice flow and reaches some kind of conclusion. This time there is no conclusion, really. It is just a story of my crazy summer, and a story about people around me, who surprised me, this whole expatriate life that always amazes me, and as for the obese lady…well, whether you think she is being cool doing what she is doing or not…I just wish you all to stay healthy, happy and loved. And don't ever ignore your body telling you something is wrong, even if you think it makes you sound uncool. 

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Eifman ballet and other random s**t.

When I first sat down to write this particular blog post, it was about my long weekend in Oman. Then I also decided I absolutely had to tell you about that amazing ballet I went to. And by the time I actually sat down here, ready to publish it…I am having to completely re-write it, as what I realize I really want to tell you is…

Guys...You have to do some random shit. Do it! Do something outside your normal life.

We all know not to be lazy. We all read lots about not settling into routine, because routine kills absolutely everything, starting with our own souls. Like I saw somewhere online recently…Most people die when they are in their twenties, they just don’t know itBecause once you stop fighting, once you settle in your ways and afraid of doing anything different…you are dead inside. And I am not talking about some major important things in life right now-I realize most of you are pussies and that’s just a sad realityI am talking about small, everyday things that we don’t do because we are…well, just lazy.

So, in short.. I had a great couple of weeks. And I will tell you why. I made myself do things I wouldn’t normally do. It started with a seminar I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to attend in Oman. Visiting a completely new place, being surrounded by new people from all over the world was like a breath of fresh air I desperately needed. I didn’t really see much of Oman as we stayed in a resort about an hour away from Muscat; so I will summarize my experience in a few points and will throw in a few entertaining photos just to spice this post up a little, so you don’t all fall asleep.

So....this rock was called a Sitting Elephant. 



   This tour guide explained to us that Omani men don’t wear pants under the thobe, but another skirt. He also explained that the funny tassel hanging around their necks was for use of traditional oil perfumes, which otherwise would stain the thobes. 

    OK, this below is actually a man. I know. I wasn’t sure at first, either. And yes, that is his (rather impressive, don't you think?) breast. I have girlfriends who paid a lot of money to enhance theirs to that shape and size. 

Oman is cool in a very surreal way. Those rocks everywhere made me feel like I was on the moon, and the air felt fresher than in Doha. It was fantastic.

Back in Doha, I was still on a high from the travels and that’s probably why I went to that ballet by myself. I never done that before and you know what? I loved it. The original plan was to attend it with Russkiy friend of mine. (She is not really Russkiy and neither am I, but everyone sees us as such, so I give up and just say it for the sake of this post.) But in the end, the friend didn’t make it back from vacation, the tickets were free, by registration only, and I’d only registered for myself...So the choice was to go alone or miss it. And I don’t usually go to theatre or anything like that by myself. And it was late. And it was at the Convention Centre (I hate driving there). And it was mid-week. But guess what? I did it. I went and it turned out to be the most superb, amazing performance I have seen in years. 

It was Anna Karenina by Eifman ballet from St Petersburg; and the place was buzzing and packed with all sorts of people who also obviously do random shit, like I did that night. They dress up (or down in some cases) and come out to watch a free (Yesfree!!! These kind of random things are possible in Doha) ballet on a Wednesday night, when most of others are in their pyjamas doing their Netflix and chill, only without the chilling part. 

It was awesome, guys. Absolutely amazing. Bewitching. Beautiful. Passionate and strong. Like I remember Russian ballet to be, from my childhood. 

If you ever get a chance to see Eifman ballet? Go!!! Do not miss it.

Finally, last weekend, after a late night, I woke up tired and the last thing I fancied doing was attempting rock climbing. But my nice Polish colleague had organized it ages ago, for the whole department. Sitting in my kitchen with a cup of Nespresso, I thought no effin way. And then, I made myself go. 

I am glad I did. Not only because the poor colleague was excited like a child to see that at least six people out of 45 bothered to turn up; but also because I loved the experience. And I thought I looked so cool on that rock that I of course, shared it on every social media I had access to. And will share here, too.

See? See that sexy chick all the way up there? That could be you. 

I am telling you. Do random shit. It makes you feel alive, and it makes you happy. Even if it is a small thing, even if it is a struggle the next morning to wake up for work…do it. 

I know you didn't ask for it, but that’s my advice, and is a good one, so take it. Life is short and I know there is a lot of good stuff on Netflix at the moment, but tomorrow you will be too old, too boring and too fat to climb that rock. So do it now.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Previously on Housewives….

So I talked before about this old friend of mine who was choosing between two boyfriends. I was somewhat judgmental if you remember. I was saying to her that she probably didn’t feel anything properly about either of them; so she should not waste time. And I found her practical approach to choosing one of those guys too calculating. If you are not sure, neither is right for you.
And guess what. Recently, she had a completely different experience. She met another guy (those internet sites provide you with a lot of choice) and wrote to me that this time, it was real. The spark was definitely there. The dates went amazingly well from the first time. They had a lot in common, the conversations were fun, the kissing was just great and she was looking forward to more. You were right, she said. I really like this one.
Suddenly, the guy changed his mind. She was absolutely heartbroken. Look, she told me. Weren’t you the telling me off for being too bloody practical in my approach to dating?! So here we go! I fell for this man but he decided I was not right for him. He told her that he couldn’t continue seeing her, because she had a small child. That was not what he was looking for, he said.
Well, she said. Isn’t that ironic. He was not handsome or successful… and was, frankly, a little too old and too short for her. He was not what she was looking for, either. But she just…you know? Liked him.
We had a long discussion then, about men and women and our approach to love and relationships.
Isn’t it funny, I said, that in most of the stories you hear in life it is us, women who are known for doing things like marrying with some sort of financial or other agenda in mind, tricking poor innocent men into falling in love with us so we could, somehow, deviously, trap them and make a better living for ourselves? Of course, there are a lot of women who still do that, no doubt.
However, what I am thinking, looking at modern men is…
Congratulations to us, women! Mabrook. We finally got the equality we forever fought for. Men are just as, if not more, calculating these days when it comes to choosing their partners. Just like some of those stereotypical pretty girls who try to marry someone rich, men are looking for ways to sell themselves for a better, easier life. 
It really seems that most men have an approach to relationship that is first of all, practical. This friend of mine likes to compare the dating style to baking a cake. It is like they go through a list of ingredients, she says.  The cake that isn’t baked according to their strict recipe might taste shit, you know? So, they plan and they analyze and tick the boxes. Legs, boobs, age, profession, religious beliefs. Is her father rich? Does she have children? Will I have to help her raise them? (Run!) Does she own her own business? (How profitable?) Is she liberal or conservative? Did she vote for or against Brexit?
Most importantly…How much will it all cost me?
I was thinking about this and thought to myself that actually, I was lucky when I was getting married to Husband. was lucky that I was born in Azerbaijan- who would want to marry someone from there, right? Where the fuck is that place? And my parents were never rich- who would want that? 
I wasn’t particularly beautiful either, to say that he just fell for my stunning looks. So you might ask why. Why did he choose me? And there could only be one answer, right? The most obvious, simple answer, yet it seems that for many people it isn’t that easy. He wanted me. Not the package, not all of the ingredients, but wow, actually me. Isn’t that….shocking? Stupid, you could say. He went out with rich girls before. Imagine how stress-free his life would be now if he had married someone rich? Poor husband.
PS. He went out with a total nymphomaniac too, allegedly - now that’s not quite as practical as a rich father, but at least would have guaranteed a lot of fun, right?
So, I was just thinking that I should be grateful for not being born in a rich or famous, or in any other way suitable family. (One thing I never have been, for sure, is suitable.) 
Basically, when we met, I had absolutely nothing to offer to my future husband. Nothing. But myself.
Remember this guy we were friends at uni?, I asked this friend of mine. Remember when he really liked a girl in our class but would not ever go out with her? He would sigh and watch her walk past in the corridors and never asked her out. And when I asked him why one day, because I knew the girl liked him, too… he said ‘you don’t shit where you live’. He didn’t want to have any romantic relationship in the same class, just in case they then split up and things would get unpleasant. Wise, right? That’s the guy who hires Chinese prostitutes on his business trips these days, when he is bored of his wife he’d found and married according to his practical calculations.
I wrote before, looking back now, about new style ads in Azeri newspapers, which showed Azeri guys also started picking up on the new trend…despite traditional old-fashioned background.
As one of my favorite songs goes…’I never thought about love when I thought about home’. I heard from someone recently that it was a fact that marriage was created for practical and financial security, a long time ago. And it is only in the recent decades, as women became more financially independent, perhaps, our expectations changed and we decided we needed something more than a practical arrangement with someone you share a mortgage and co-exist with. We want romance, we want to be loved. 
But what if we, the tiny percentage of naïve romantics, are wrong? According to this Russian saying… love comes and goes, but our need for food remains forever. So perhaps modern men, with their transactional, businesslike approach to relationships are just clever. And we are stupid. Who knows, right? I am still happy that I had nothing when I was getting married. I wouldn’t want anyone to stay with me for any other reason than wanting to be with me. For some of us it is that simple. And so I just hope, for my single friend, for all women out there who are looking for relationship…I hope you find someone who won’t mentally break you down into ingredients to analyze if you are a profitable investment…but will just fall for you. Just like that. I am sure that still happens. And for all of us who are in a relationship…let’s hope they are with us because they want to, and not because of convenience.

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Tuesday, 4 December 2018

This too, shall pass.

I always loved that fable. One version claims it originated in Persia, and tells a story of a king who had asked wise men for a ring to make him happy whenever he was feeling sad. The ring they produced for him had simple words: This too, will pass. It however, became a curse too, whenever he was happy. Because it reminded him that all the good times end, too. I also heard before the ring belonged to King Solomon. Whoever it belonged to, it summarises life pretty perfectly, I think.

A good friend will probably have to leave Qatar soon. One of those heartbreaking expat moments.

'Well…that’s just the nature of the expat life, and your particular local circumstances?..' a friend back home pointed out. "You guys knew what it was going to be like when you signed up for it".

That helps. We are well aware of that, thank you. Like you are probably aware that you and everyone you ever loved will die. Doesn’t make it easier does it. Still hurts when it happens, however hard you try to mentally prepare for it.

We have a saying back home…time heals everything. I remember my mother saying that to me every time i was in love and things didn't work out. I thought i was going to kill her for repeating that useless phrase to me over and over again. 'You will recover from this', she would say. Of course the last thing i wanted at the time was to recover from loving someone. 

But is true, nevertheless. We humans, tend to move on. We have to, otherwise we wouldn’t survive as species, would simply die out from a heartbreak epidemic. Everything that once made you stressed or very upset will eventually lose the intensity, the sharpness of the pain will become duller and duller until, hopefully,  if not disappear entirely then at least will lie low and quietly somewhere at the very back of your memory bank. And that is good, of course.

But, just like the philosophical sentiment in Solomon’s ring implies…it is also terribly sad, isn’t it.

Because, it isn’t just the sad moments in life that we have to move on from. Everything good that happens to us also ends. And however hard you cling to the good memories, they will fade too. And you have to move on.

I know that even though right now it feels terrible to imagine that in a few months’ time I might  not have this friend in Doha, won’t be able to pop over for a chat, share a laugh and a glass of  wine,  I will eventually get used to just checking her status updates on Facebook. It happened so many times before, so I know the drill. So yes, of course I know I will be fine. And she will be fine. Everyone will be fine. But that doesn’t mean it is a good thing. It doesn’t mean I am happy to move on. Acceptance isn’t a choice. Acceptance isn’t happiness. I might accept that this friend will join a chain of virtual friends  on Facebook. And I am aware of the nature of expat life. I accept it. But I still hate it.

So what is the solution? you say. Well, there isn’t one. I saw a funny Russian postcard which must be based on Solomon’s ring, only it says "Fuck it! We shall survive this, too"  Perhaps, I should get that engraved on a ring and wear it all the time.

Another option is to be stupid. Stupidity, as I am beginning to realise, is a very easy way to be happy. Stupidity makes you hope for things you otherwise would know are impossible. It makes you naive and enthusiastic. It keeps you hopeful and contented. So yes, either be stupid , or get the ring. Or drink a lot more wine.

So I am going to try all of the above. I am going to tell myself this friend might not leave. It isn’t for sure yet, right? I am also going to tell myself even if she leaves, we might meet again- maybe by chance, who knows right? Maybe on holiday in Spain or something. I am also going to buy a ring and stick the Russian version on it. And I definitely need more wine.

This too, shall pass.