I wrote a new post on the chick lit blog here. Actually there are a few new posts. Go read.
I noticed her as I was walking toward the treadmill. She wasn’t a familiar face – I now have familiar faces in the gym, yay me – but something about her stood out. She looked rather well put together. I noticed the glint of her bob pin.
I got onto a treadmill and became aware of a flurry near me. I turned to find her waving apologetically. Removing my headphones I heard her saying: sorry can you switch to this machine. I’m doing an assignment and I need this machine. She gestured behind her probably to a camera.
Oh sure, I said.
I’m doing this fucking assignment. I need to line up four shots.
My eyes widened. Sure sure I said, as I stepped onto the new treadmill.
Did she just say “fucking assignment”? Does she think fucking is something casual to be dropped into a sentence like damned? Or did she think I was the type of person who wouldn’t be shocked by it?
Her fucking made me smile.
Every now and then I hear my colleagues grumbling about people walking while on their smartphones.
I say nothing. I am one of those people.
Why are you always on your phone? V asks. Disingenuously, because a) he is also “always” on his phone, my usage annoys him when he looks up and I am not sitting up awaiting his attention like a geisha, for example when a commercial comes on or the video buffers a) this is just a modification of his other lament (“stop reading”).
I’m actually reading on my phone, I tell my colleague/V . If I wasn’t on my phone, it would be a book.
Ah, that ok then, she says. (V’s having none of that).
But why is it ok? Why is a newspaper ok (these days) and not a phone? Why is a novel? (Most people have forgotten that novels were in fact triggers of moral panic back when they were in fact novel).
Is it because a phone does not allow the judge to see and thus to judge and therefore the worst is assumed? Surely these people are like cattle, following the dim light of prurient entertainment. What if they were reading philosophy? What if they were not?
If the principle in question is lack of attention to the world or lack of attention to the person one might bump into (more on that later), then shouldn’t philosophy be as unjustified as Paris Hilton? Isn’t the crime here that one is not paying sufficient attention to at worst incoming traffic, at best the bounteous sensations of the “real world”?
Would it help if we wore little stickers as we navigate public transport: forgive me, I am studying Proust.
The French have a saying – metro, boulot, dodo (eat, work, sleep). Are we not to be forgiven for not finding the metro scillintating? Why do I find my peevish colleagues less interesting than the elderly woman vehemently absorbed in candy crush?
Baudelaire invited us (okay gentlemen) to be flaneurs, wandering the city, open to impressions. (What if I were reading Baudelaire, then is it ok?).
I am passing through the worst part of my commute, a stuffy rare unairconditioned space made worse by an incline, I can only see the backs of people. I look up to see a woman with green flecks in her perfectly coiffed hair. It brings me joy but is it better or worse than the Baudelaire I could be reading? Do I have to choose?
I stare fixedly ahead of me and find nothing surprising, no moment of epiphany in the Joycean sense (I am showing off. It is my version of the “forgive me” sticker).
I have almost never bumped into anyone while on my phone. There have been a couple of near misses followed by loud sighs, always from Westerners. Chinese people seem tacitly accept that life is boring/hard – ok fine nasty, brutish and short – and we just have to endure it as best we can with whatever glowing anaesthetics we have.
Also that sometimes the world and people inside the rabbit hole are more interesting. Hence literature.
I have also never been bumped into by a person with a phone and if I have I reckon I would take it in the spirit of flaneurie.
The trick is though to get down to the nuts and bolts of it that when you walk while looking down at your phone (bow head syndrome and resultant neck pain notwithstanding) you can see the feet of approaching people and swerve in advance. You’re welcome.
All this to say that I will try my own excercise in flaneurie. Not that I’m going to stop reading and walking (podcasts have helped) but because I do observe a fair bit nevertheless and perhaps we do need some joie de (“real life”) vivre.
I wrote this post on the MTR, while walking. No humans were harmed in its making. Thank me, dear reader, for the judgement I endured to bring you this missive.
There was a lot of pretty at the Oscars this year, and some straight up fabulousness.
First, let us all bow down to this stunning specimen. There is nothing to top this, and there won’t be for a long time, I suspect:
Also, living proof that men should wear skirts more.
Helen Mirren proving again that she is queen.
There was so much pink to choose from, which may be why I was excited by this year’s red carpet.
Then, there was yellow.
Old school glamour
There were some excellent reds.
Tina Fey scored a personal best.
Best couple award goes to:
TLo said Lady Gaga was doing an homage to Audrey. I get it, but also cannot shake the feeling that the hip structure was made for posing.
On the subject of black, there were some pretty fabulous tux renditions (apart from Billy Porter, obvs)
And finally, great bikini wax, but newp.
Or at least a person with less drama in her head. At the start of the year, I felt like I didn’t really have many resolutions to make. Well, this could an addendum. So here goes:
First, swallow opinions about:
1. Annoying columnists: they are only doing their best. Yes, they are sloppy with the facts. Yes, they hate being questioned (but didn’t you?). Yes, they’re defensive.
But hey, they could be worse.
2. Annoying colleagues/boss: Again they could be worse. Also, they’re just people who did not go to grad school, or in the case of one of them, who who did, but on the fringes and in strait-laced discipline. Ok I’m bring snotty.
They are allowed to have their own opinions that differ from yours.
Also, if columnists are painful, imagine boss who has to deal with them plus his boss all.the.time. Given that, he’s doing pretty well.
Painful colleague probably has marital issues. Ok and she’s really insecure. Plus, I should have just shut up and not challenge her anodyne outbursts.
Awkward colleague is not self-centered typical male seeking emotional labour of women while doing none but just someone too polite to ask questions needed to emotionally support someone else. Ok no, he is self centered. But he did help one in the early days.
3. Ungenerous thoughts about people that pop into head: e.g. guy you did not think was all that who got through his defence with no revisions. Think how nice for him, and resist the urge to text other person in your cohort to have a bitch fest on the side. (okay, I failed at that). Or friend who you generally like but who was literally unable to stick to the restaurant choice for dinner, possibly because she couldn’t handle going to a new one but couldn’t bear to say so.
I’m serious. I think it might benefit my personality or else reduce general drama in my life to squash these instincts to be bitchy.
On the other hand, I might just burst with the all the unsaid things I’m swallowing.
Time will tell. I think more likely I will vent to designated vent-friendly friend and hope that satisfies me.
Second, shut up and listen more.
This is the year I fell in love with you.
This is the year you came into your own beauty – your glossy girls, your crooked teeth, your glowing skin.
This is the year I learnt what you needed – me.
This is the year that I accepted that you are like me and I like you. Ok, me but at intensity raised to the power of 100 (which I will blame on your father’s sisters).
We like many of the same things. I can anticipate before you put something into your mouth whether you will like it or not. But then there’s tomato ketchup, which I cannot stand and you love, so I hold myself back poker faced as people try to get you to try new things, new things that you sniff at skeptically.
When you are angry, no one in a five mile radius would be in any doubt. You are not shy about expressing your sheer frustration that the world is not going your way.
When you feel love, you can only show us by turning into a cat. You meow, you lick us, you rub against us.
You do hug. But on your terms. I am permitted to grab you and hug you and you wipe off my kisses with a “ew”. Again, you are me.
I have learnt to get you to calm down by drawing a picture. You still love art and craft best. You are not a reader yet, you like lines and colours.
And clothes, and dressing up. And dancing. And striking a pose. I can see you on the cover of a fashion magazine.
This is the year you and I had long chats. You need that, that time with me talking, and I cannot give you as much as you need, but I try.
This is the year you had so much homework and we worked at it. I admire your commitment, the need to master something. You like homework, mostly, but you want me next to you.
This is the year school settled down, you made friends, you even became the preferred cousin. My heart sighed with relief, because like you I was a lonely schoolgirl.
This is the year you got a speaking part in your school play and you aced it and you made us laugh at your refusal to share the mic with anyone.
This is the year I realised you will not be a sporty girl, and that we will have to trick you into exercising.
This is the year that I realised you will grow taller than me very soon.
This is the year I tried to strike a balance between going along with you and putting my foot down. You still cannot always be reasoned with.
But this year, I can anticipate better when I will succeed and when I will fail.
“You wanted a daughter,” your father says, when I sigh after one of your storms.
Yes I did.
You were not the daughter I anticipated.
This is the year my heart is so full of you.
You, my whirlwind. Me, the eye of your storm.
This year. You.