Saturday, 17 January 2015

Fighting back or about excessive partying.

I have little time for blogging these days, mainly due to too much partying. This weekend started on Wednesday night with girls' drinks at the pool, after a free zumba class in our compound, then a night out in a nice restaurant ( girls only again) followed by a girlfriend's birthday party last night. That one, for a change, included our husbands. However, just like on many other occasions, the women were acting somewhat more wild and silly, while men just stood around talking about…I don't know what, probably their jobs?

'Have you noticed', Husband asked casually this morning, as I sat there with a large mug of very strong coffee in slightly trembling hands, 'That it is always wives who get more crazy at all these parties these days? And not the husbands?'

I have. I, in fact, have been thinking about that for a little while now, and (I think?) came up with a perfect explanation. We, middle aged women, are just fighting back.

You have to realize, I said to Husband, that, however happy we are to be wives and mothers, we sacrifice a huge chunk of our younger years for the privilege. From the household chores to giving birth, our life becomes a chain of events that claim us entirely, body and mind, 24/7, no negotiations, no time off. We go through pregnancy, throwing up, getting fat, leaking milk from what used to be pretty sexy things before then. We give birth, encouraged to do it naturally, going through undescribable pain. And then we don't sleep. For years. Most importantly, we no longer belong to ourselves. Ever again. Because, once you are a mother, you belong to your children. Cooking, cleaning, looking after them, worrying about them, thinking about them. Non stop! And some of us forget what it was like to be simply ourselves. Whatever that was. Not the mother. Not the wife. Just me.

For some it was partying, smoking, dancing till early hours of the morning. For others it was doing sports for hours every day, or reading a book, or lying in bed for however long we wanted to! Or being at work. Being able to focus on the job, on career, and not think about school trips we are missing, runny noses or homework that will need doing later.  And suddenly one day, we wake up and think FUCK! Wait a moment, what happened here? I am fat. I am mumsy. My hair is always pulled back. What happened to my body? What happened to my mind? What the hell happened to my clothes and underwear?

OK, so I am getting older... But not quite so old yet as to forget entirely how to enjoy myself. How I used to enjoy myself. And thats why, I think, we, mothers who suddenly get that tiny bit more sleep as our kids grow up, that tiny bit of free time when they finally start school….maybe go a bit crazy.

Yes, perhaps smoking cigarettes again, even though I quit for years is not a good idea. Perhaps drinking a lot and dancing till 3am ( and maybe ending up swimming in the pool with my clothes on…) is not very sensible. But wait a minute. I have done years of sensible. I might just need a little bit of craziness back in my life.

Call it a midlife crisis, if you'd like, but I watch it happen all around me. And, as we discussed with Husband this morning, in this expat life, it happens on a bigger scale than it did back in our suburban little village in the UK. Probably because the conditions are more conducive to such naughty behavior. Most of us don't work. Most of us have maids to do the cleaning after. Most of us miss our friends and families back home and need to get distracted not to feel miserable and homesick. And drugs are illegal here.

But, whether here or back home…Some of us hit a certain point in our lives when we stop focusing entirely on other members of our families and slowly look back at ourselves, and what we have become.

And so we fight back. We start wearing sexier clothes again, we dance and work out, we drink more than we ever did before and we like to party a lot. So what, I ask you. It is all for the very same reason that you ( i.e. husbands) want a sexy new car, a mistress or a paddle board. We don't want to get old. We already given up a lot for you, for the kids, for the home…But now, while we still have a bit of energy left, it is time to claim some of our own selves back. To remind us that sometimes, we can let our hair loose and party like we used to.

Please, watch out, Husband pointed out, I just don't want you to fall into this stereotypical lazy drunken expat wife pattern. Why not, I said. There is nothing wrong with that. I am an expat wife. Might as well embrace it, gratefully. Tomorrow it might all change. I might end up having a full time job, commuting on a train for hours and wearing layers in winter to stay warm…But for now, let me enjoy this tiny little bit of freedom that I have left. So, cheers! Here is to more drinking and debauchery, girls.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Because everything is temporary.

How many people fell in this abyss,
     I fathom from afar!
     There will be time, and I will vanish too
     From earth's exterior…….
For quickness of events as they come rushing,
     For truth, for play, say I -
     Please hear me! But do also please love me
     For this that I will die.

( Marina Tsvetayeva)

OK before I go any further, please forgive me, for this posting is written under continuous influence of pre-Christmas drinking. If it makes absolutely no sense it is because I have not been properly sober for what seems like a very long time. 

Today, at a yet another pre-Christmas party, two friends and I were discussing the transiency of Doha expat life. A mutual friend of ours just said goodbye to two close friends of hers who moved away. 'It has not happened to me yet', said one friend, and I thought that I, too, have been lucky so far. However, all of us, without exception, are only too aware of this simple truth- we are only here for a fragment of our lives. And, as we enter new friendships and begin building our lives here, we all think about that point, when we will have to move on or say goodbye.

But, to me, it has become much more than that. As I am becoming more and more used to the fact that everything here is temporary, I also am becoming more aware that it is not just my Doha life that is transient, but so is everything else. Of course, it is somewhat a statement of the obvious. Yet, I have never, in any of my previous lives, whether in Baku or in London, felt the transiency of everything so vividly, so tangibly.

But, before you assume this posting to be depressing, let me try and explain why it in fact, isn't.

This surreal, fragmented life we, expats, live here is like a rehearsal for the bigger play. And you have a choice, a very simple one. You can either get upset and worry about it all disappearing, or you can enjoy it more, precisely because you know it will disappear soon.

It is a complicated feeling. Let me give you an example. Husband wants a new truck. He does not really need it, of course. But he wants it. Can he justify having it? Well, no. Is it sensible? Stupid question. And yet, after thinking about it through my new everything-is-temporary prism, I told him to get it, if he really wants it.


I love this new prism. It is pretty cool, really, once your mind accepts it. Just say to yourself that everything is transient: happiness and loss, money and worries, friends, houses and cars…And see how simple life becomes. And people. People are very transient, too. But that makes them more interesting. You meet new people in Doha, and it is exciting because you don't know how long you will actually know them for before one of you moves somewhere else. So go ahead and enjoy your new friends, their stories and backgrounds, their cultures-so different from yours, and how they enrich your life, before they, inevitably, will go.

You can apply this to everything, good of bad. Terrible boss? Not for long! Hate the traffic? Not your country, don't worry about it! Just put up with it for a short while. Not that happy with your house? It isn't yours, anyway.

So what I am trying to say is I am learning to love this transiency. I love my temporary friends, with their temporary lives becoming a fragmented part of my temporary life. Because who knows how long we are all here for. And of course, I am no longer just talking about Doha.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A Cataclysmic scenario, or what if my Facebook friends ever met each other?

I have been thinking, looking at my friends, acquaintances and relatives on Facebook, that it would be a fascinating experience to have them all in one room for a day. And when I said fascinating, what I really meant was cataclysmic.

Let's imagine, just hypothetically, that I died. Or re-married. Or whatever else people do that requires most of their friends to attend in one big bunch for a few hours. Of course, if we are practical and realistic about it, nothing, neither my death or marriage or an alien invasion would ever gather all my Facebook friends in one room, face to face.  

And thank goodness for that.

It would be, let's be honest, a total and utter disaster.

Organizing a seating plan would be an impossible task.

Let's see….

I would have to seat the Jews away from the Palestinians.

I would have to make sure my friend who had a rather unpleasant experience involving her partner and a Russian girl in the past is not sat at the same table with any reasonably attractive Russian girls. Generalizing, I know, but hey…Just to be on the safe side.

The Liberals would hate to be anywhere near the Conservatives, so maybe stick them somewhere in the opposite corner of the room.

The atheists would probably be safer somewhere outside altogether.

And, of course, let's not forget all the Armenian people, journalists and social activists of some sort, whom I met via blogging, who probably would need to be hidden away from some of my old school friends who keep posting aggressive hatred messages these days.

You see how complicated it would get?

But then…Despite being so different from each other, to the point of me not being able to ever imagine them meeting in real life, all these people are part of my life.  Whether from the exotic Soviet past, or from the suburban life in the UK, or a mixed cultural pot of Doha, they are all characters in my story, they all have a right to be in my Facebook friends list. How is that even possible? Does it mean that I lack, you know, principles? Or am I too superficial?

Or does it mean that everyone on my list is actually someone that, for whatever reason, deserved to be there? All these people must have played a role, important or trivial, in my past or current life…they must have made me laugh, or think, or learn something. Made me love them or fancy them, or want to be their friend. Each and one of them, however different from each other (and me, for that matter)  must  have been cool or interesting enough to be accepted and added to that Friends category.

Now, this is the end of the post, and the moment when some sort of a point should, in theory, be made. But I have not really got a point. I just thought it would be amazing if a social platform like Facebook would somehow have the power to magically affect real life. To help all of us become more tolerant, more accepting, less judgemental. So that I could, hypothetically, imagine inviting all of my Facebook friends into one big room together. Because, remember? If you love me, you've got to love my dog. Who was, by the way, a Rottweiler. A breed most often hated for no other reason but sheer ignorance. But, as I said to anyone who wanted to visit my home and was not sure about him…You just have to trust me when I say he is good. And, he is part of who I am.

And so are my Facebook friends.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Too much information?

I was talking about my blog with someone last night and explaining why I don't write as much as before. I can't really be myself, I said. I can't say anything I would really want to say for the fear of accidentally offending someone- either the locals, or the expats, or neighbours…the list goes on.

In the past, my blog had always been my personal little world of free speech. An outlet to express my thoughts openly, to make an non-PC joke if I liked to, or use words that are no longer appropriate to use in the western society. Such as a retard. I can say it here, you see? I am such a retard. Yes, you might find it offensive, but so what, it is my blog, and I can do whatever I want here!

And I need this outlet. I need to be able to occasionally joke inappropriately, or be rude, or be silly, or be totally ridiculous. Because that is the real me.

I remember thinking about an old English friend of mine, that he was turning into a rude, bitter, intolerant old man. But, as I, myself, got a bit older, I realised that he had not changed as such. He just stopped caring about being proper, and started speaking out the thoughts he had probably always had but never expressed openly. He must have realised that life was too short to worry about always saying the right thing to be accepted by majority. Those who hate you for it will step aside, giving more space to those who accept you the way you are.

Last night, at my ladies only jewelry party, I relaxed for just a moment and said something that was, in hindsight, perhaps, somewhat inappropriate. But I had a drink (or two…) and I was with my girlfriends. One tends to relax a little in such situation. And so I made a joke about the reasons I had married my husband. Which involved a reference to him being able to cook really well and being good in bed.

And so a friend exclaimed  'No! No! Too much information!!!' and quickly redirected the conversation.

I paused and thought about it. To me, it was just a joke. Was it offensive? Not really. (Not to Husband, anyway.) I thought it was quite carefully phrased, really. I did not give any details of why or how he was good, which to me, would have been, indeed, too much information. For goodness sake, I thought. It was a joke! Amongst women only. Not only women, but friends, people I know for a while now. If I can't make a rude (ish?) joke with my girlfriends, then when and where can I be myself?

The incident made me think of the number of times I  judged people by something they joked about or said, momentarily slotting them into a 'Oh God, he is retarded!' or 'She is just a common tart' category. And, of course, I might have been correct. I usually am. And yes, I used the R word again.

Of course we can, and should, make assumptions about others from what they say. If only everyone was genuine! Wouldn't it be great to find out straight away that someone is racist or stupid or rude? If only were we allowed to say what we really wanted, how much easier would our relationships become? No guessing, no illusions, no disappointments later.

More importantly, it made me wonder how well I really know others around me. Because, with all these endless social restrictions placed upon us, can we ever be ourselves with each other?  As we grow older, the rules become more asphyxiating, more controlling. What topics are appropriate at this dinner party? What's okay to say in front of someone of that religion? What would someone from that country and that cultural background find offensive and what-funny?  Tiptoe very carefully around the politics until absolutely sure. Please, do be careful with disabilities! Don't even think of making any comment about those who claim to be depressed. Be very careful with vegetarians and pet lovers. And dwarfs.

Fine! Lets be polite, let's be proper. But surely, once we established that we are friends, once in a while, under the influence, you know? it might be okay to chill- just a little?, and relax and forget about the social rules and expectations.  And just share a joke or two, however inappropriate they might be. And expect not to be judged.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The language we speak deep inside.

Today, admiring one more utterly idiotic, overly enthusiastic posting from someone I know on Facebook, I once again felt my eternal gratitude for this fantastic social networking invention. Besides letting us quickly share jokes and photos and spy on our ex’s; Facebook can, in one quick stroke, paint a clear, fast picture of someone you might be just getting to know, and save you a lot of wasted time. Just something very simple that a person, unprovoked and unasked, shares online can give you a clear glimpse into their mind and, more often than not, warn you not to ever go there.

So many people, who seem completely normal face to face, suddenly become pretty weird on Facebook.  It truly is fascinating, don’t you find?

Anyway, what was I actually trying to talk about? Oh yes. About music.

The other afternoon, on the way from school, I tried to share my new favourite song with my big daughter. In my obsession with Aspire, I got into it at one of the classes, where we all, no matter where from, enjoy the stretching to this French tune. My child was not enthusiastic. ‘Nuh, I don’t like it’, she said before I even switched the song on. ‘I don’t like songs in other languages’, she added. ‘I don’t understand anything they are saying’.

‘Just try!’ I begged her. I explained to her that with music, it is simply magical. Listen to the singer’s voice, listen to the emotions, and you will enjoy it, I promise, I said. Don’t worry about the actual words, or what they mean.

And, despite being pretty determined against foreign songs, and for some peculiar reason, French ones in particular, as soon as the music stopped, she paused and said, reluctantly: ‘Again.’

It got me thinking about the amazing power the music has on all of us, no matter where we are right now, or where we come from. Just look at all those women in Aspire, I thought, from Arabic to Eastern European and Chinese, all of us affected by this one French song, asking the trainer at the end of the class to play ‘that song’. Again. Just like my 9 year old asked me. (I know you all are dying to hear it now, so here it is).

Not only has music always been my best coping mechanism for many situations in life, including long journeys- from the delayed tube commuting in London to traffic nightmares of Doha-it is also a useful tool, just like Facebook, in quickly determining whether you have anything in common with someone. Sitting in a hot Doha garden with my Spanish friend, sipping rum and coke on a Monday night- as you do…- I shared my French song with her. ‘Ver-ry nice!’ She exclaimed in her exquisite accent.

‘Have you heard of this Kizomba? Very big in Spain now!’ And she proceeded to show me a video that only a few days ago a Russian friend had sent me.

And at a party last night, admittedly drunk, she and I had a (probably rather pathetic) go at our Kizomba moves. One more amazing musical phenomenon, originated in Angola, taking Spain by storm, bringing my Russian friend and her American boyfriend together, and even making me and my Spanish friend stand up and embarrass ourselves in front of more sensible people. 

Because whatever language we all communicate in, music will always be the language we speak deep inside. The language of our emotions, the language of what we really are.  And a useful tool that helps us tune in and find those who are on the same wavelength (even if it is not so apparent at first, because of the cultural and language differences) and those who are….well, on an entirely different planet altogether. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

50 Shades of Aspire Ladies Club, or about my addiction.

This, of course, isn't me. I borrowed this lovely picture from Husband's favorite Facebook page- Fit Girls. 

I wanted freedom
Bound and restricted
I tried to give you up
But I'm addicted

(from Time is Running Out by Muse, who, by the way, are still and always will be, the best.)

OK. I have a confession to make. I am an addict.

I never really have been a type who is easily addicted. I used to smoke…well, quite a lot actually, but then decided to quit and I did, pretty easily. Nowadays, I can have an occasional cigarette with a glass of wine and move on without another one for months. You see what I mean? Easy!

So I did not really even see it coming.

And, as addictions often happen, it started pretty innocently. After almost a year of trying to convince me to join Aspire, the local ladies' sports club, my friend finally managed to drag me there.

At first, I could not see the point. Why would I wait for ages to register and then pay and drive somewhere early in the mornings, when I had a free gym in the compound? It seemed too much of an effort. Isn't it too busy? I did not like the idea of too many sweaty women jumping around too close to me. Just give it a try, the friend responded. You will love it.

At first, I went to one class a week. I enjoyed it. I went to two or three, and thought I was doing pretty well. I look back at that previous life of mine as the life of a free person. Someone who was allowed to do nothing if she wanted to. Sleep... Or read a book perhaps? Or blog, for that matter. Or even get a job!!

In those days, I had no idea what would become of me. There were women of all sorts of shapes, ages and level of fitness. I would look at some hardcore ones who would emerge out of one particularly exhausting class, staggering, dripping with sweat and barely breathing and go straight into another, and would think to myself secretly What lunatics, seriously!? What are they like? Have they no lives besides this place? Why are they killing themselves?

And I used to stand at the back, attempting to catch up on the routines, embarrassed of how silly and awkward I must look…and getting annoyed by the fanatics in the front row. They would stretch and jump at the start of the class, shouting out in ecstasy as the instructors took to the stage.

How little did I know.

Now, I am one of them. And I can't stop. I am not sure when or how it happened. It has been a journey. At some point I realized that my previous goal, which was to lose some weight was no longer adequate.  I wanted to get fitter.  I wanted to be able to follow and do what the trainers were showing us. From going three times a week, I moved on to four and then five.

And then you suddenly feel that you don't want to miss out on the weights class just because you did a cardio…and the addiction kicks in. Your worst nightmare is to fall sick and not be able to attend a class.

Your gym buddies become your best friends and you cancel coffee dates with everyone else, as those people don't understand why you absolutely, under no circumstances, could not meet them before 11 am. Everything else becomes secondary. No time for anyone else. Not much different to one old friend of mine's obsession with marihuana. Only mine is healthier. Unless, of course, it kills me. Which looks more and more possible as the addiction grows stronger.  I cannot stop.

And then…there are the instructors. They are not just instructors. They are Goddesses. 

Each with her own unique style but all beautiful; of different nationalities, but equally cool and funny, they are making us work harder than I ever remember working in any gym or class in my entire (admittedly, lazy) life. We are in love with them. We watch their every move, we follow every word. We pray that they never leave us. We love them and admire them.

Clearly, I must enjoy pain. Because, pushing my body this far feels great. And, as endorphins get released, I am not as stressed - even as I maneuver in the crazy Doha traffic. I used to want to kill other drivers really badly, by ripping their stupid throats out, but now? Now I just smile and wave.

It makes me happy. I know it is because I am drugged with the endless exercise, delirious and not able to think straight. Because, surely, I should be aspiring to achieve something in my life?

Yet, listening to a couple of mums at the school pick up discuss how desperate they were to find a job so they would not be so bored…I felt happy. I am not bored. I have no time or energy  to feel bored or dissatisfied with my life.

So, okay, you are probably thinking, this is all great, but what's the catch? Well, I wish I could be more relaxed about it. On the morning of my baby girl's first day at big school, I was not going to take her. I figured it was okay for daddy to take her. So I could attend my classes, you see?

And it was only when a friend of mine said to me 'I love you, but you have shit for brains! You ARE going to your daughter's first day at school!!! ' that I realized just how crazy my obsession became. I had to tell myself that some (not many) things still matter more than my new drug.

Life, I thought to myself melancholically, always gets in the way of a good addiction, doesn't it.