SwissMinx

SwissMinx

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Diet the Knot

Did you know that the wedding industry (couple and guest costs) is worth a staggering £10 billion? Weddings are big business, even in this ongoing recession, and big business means loads of companies trying to get a cut of the share. It is, however, a specialised market with a limited choice of marketing channels. As a result, wedding fairs have started to pop up all over the UK and have become a regular event.

Neither Mr Minx nor I were too keen on the idea of attending a fair. However, they do offer a great opportunity to conduct your own market research, so we decided to bite the bullet in order to receive quotes and gather ideas. British couples spend an average of over £18k on their wedding, and before the fair, we were ignorant of some of the needs created by canny wedding companies. We had details highlighted to us we never considered important enough on which to splash out. For example, there are entire businesses dedicated to the art of creating cake toppers. I have also recently spotted cards specially designed to pop the question of being – wait for it – a bridesmaid. We didn’t last long at the fair: After 50 minutes of rolling eyes and sensory overload, we collected our goodie bags and exited stage left.

It was at unpacking the goodie bag where I was met with another common wedding preconception: dieting. Part of the bag was a jar of diet pills. In fact, the diet pills were the dominant ‘gift’. I felt furious and personally attacked and could not shake the nagging feeling that the pills were aimed at me, the blushing bride. However, I have since learned that slimming down for your nuptials is not just a pressure felt by women. In a study released by Confetti in 2013, 79% of brides and 49% of grooms said they planned to lose weight for the big day (pun intended).

When starting the search for the wedding gown, I was a size 16, which, if popular opinion is to be believed, is the average size of a woman in the UK. Things run differently in the wedding industry, alas. During my first trial, I was informed that wedding dress sizes came one size smaller than high street sizes (a 14 is a 12, a 12 a 10 etc.) I also learned that designers decide in which size they provide their sample dresses. It’s the ‘Gucci Situation’ all over again: A few years ago, when shopping for a little black number at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, I was informed by Gucci staff that I was not the body type the brand wished to cater for. Translation: We don’t want a fat bird like you wearing our clothes. Certain designers don’t want their wedding gowns to be worn – and thus advocated – by fuller brides. It is a humiliating experience.

Buying your wedding dress should be a joyful event. An assistant trying to squeeze a bride into a gown two sizes too small is not an experience that fills any girl with confidence, let alone joy. Talk about ruining an appointment and – from a business point of view – losing a sale. A curvier bride is left with the choices of going on the hunt for an ‘oversized’ dress, having a dress made to measure or to lose weight. I tried the made to measure path at a high-end boutique but again, I did not I did not fit the size 14 sample size, even though at that stage I had gone down a full dress size. I was told by the staff not to worry: “All brides lose weight.” – it sounded more like instructions than words of solace.

As much as I would love to say that my body confidence is strong enough for all these experiences not to have an effect, it would be a lie. Nothing has made me reach for the water bottle and the running shoes faster than the thought of looking like a stuffed pumpkin in those wedding pictures. I wish I could claim that I stood my ground, embraced my curves and stayed the size I was. I didn’t. My recent weight loss has little to do with trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle. I have been dancing to the wedding industry’s tune, not standing up for my shape and falling into the diet trap. So far, I have stayed away from crash diets and opted to follow a strict daily exercise routine. I must admit though that temptation is always present, like a little devil sitting on my shoulder.

Having suffered from bulimia for a decade in the past, I know I am walking on thin ice. My fiancé and I have talked about the experiences mentioned earlier and he knows of my former battle with an eating disorder. He is very encouraging, cooking healthy meals for me and praising my success so far. Having said that, he also made me promise that I won’t go beyond a size 12, and I know he will intervene should I spiral into past behaviour.

The beautiful lesson for me in all of this is that I am getting married to a man who doesn’t see the extra pounds and believes I am as beautiful now as I was when we got together. A man who has been a rock, supports my career choices, deals with the black dog beautifully and loves the feisty me. Still, there is a part of me sad about the fact that I don’t believe that curvy me is good enough; it leaves a bit of a shadow on such a magnificent occasion.

Dress Distress

I am getting married. To quote a line from the movie Pride and Prejudice: “Ring the bell and tell the servants they can have a bowl of punch.” Don’t worry: this is not going to be a post where I go all sugary with regards to my fiancé and how happy I am. (He is an incredible man and I am a lucky girl.) I am neither going to turn this blog into a countdown to the wedding. I am excited but the Big Day has not become my raison d’être. I cannot wait to be married, rather than to get married.

I am not a woman who has been planning her wedding day ever since she was a little girl. I cannot revert to themes and colour schemes plotted and perfected for years in my imagination. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, each to their own.) My focus was on kick-starting my career after graduating from university, skiing and securing tickets for festivals and gigs. In addition, my dating history in my 30’s wasn’t exactly pretty. Or as my close friend Stewart said recently: “You sure knew how to pick them.”

No doubt, the first days of being engaged are wonderful. Sharing your good news with family and friends and watching their reaction is an extraordinary experience.  I can only describe it as non-stop giddiness. Then, after the first wave of emotions, the questions kick in. People want details, and all of a sudden, everyone has an opinion. I reckon getting married is like having a baby (I have not experienced either so far).  Only some have been through the process but everyone is an expert. Also, few people hold back. Interestingly, even people who claim they would never want to get married have given the subject a lot of thought.

So, here I am, a bit like a fish out of water. The most important thing I have learnt so far is to drown out the noise. The alternative is to go, well, insane. This is an easier task when it’s colleagues and friends, however, when family starts to chip in, it gets delicate.

I got a first taster when starting to discuss gown options with my mother. For her first wedding, my mother tied the knot in the most beautifully simple dress, which she had designed herself. Not a princess in sight – she was a picture of effortless elegance. I told her I was aiming for a vintage dress, preferably tea length. My vision was 60’s style – waist, short, red lips. I mentioned this to my mother, as well as the fact that I wanted my fiancé to be part of the choosing process. I trust and value his opinion, so why not with regards to my gown? My mother’s reaction was quite stunning. Thunder and lightning, very, very frightening indeed. My husband to be seeing the dress! What was I thinking! Did I not know that this was asking for trouble! Then the comments started on the length and style, my mother reminding me that I was only going to get married once, suggesting that therefore this called for a ballgown. What followed was a tug of war via email, in which I would send pictures of dresses I loved, my mother dismissing them, sending me her favourites (all of them circa 1982), which I rejected in return. It was a wedding gown perpetuum mobile.

What my mother and I went through is nothing new and certainly not specific to my situation. Every time I entered a dress shop, I witnessed some emotional black mail being applied, such as “Well, I think you look much better in this, but it’s your day.”. American daytime TV channels make a fortune out of this predicament. Watch any episode of Say Yes to the Dress and you will be presented with a variation of the mother-daughter battle.

My mother and I ended up spending a weekend together hunting gowns. The more vintage styles I tried, the more I could tell she did not buy into the idea. To be fair, none of the sample dresses fit. Being a size 16 when dress shopping is far from ideal (and a subject for another post in the future). Our last stop was a local outlet store for the more traditional bride. We found a dress that hugged my body perfectly and did not require any alterations. Grecian in style, it was long and big and came with an underskirt. The corset made my waist look tiny. Finally, I got to witness an emotional reaction from my mother, so I purchased the gown.

Happily ever after? Far from it. Every big purchase comes with buyer’s remorse. Mine kicked in about a day after the decision and wouldn’t budge. In fact, it got worse as the weeks went on. It become so acute, I asked my fiancé to help me into the gown and to give me his opinion. You don’t have to be a trained psychologist to realise that I was unhappy with the frock. My fiancé made the right noises but I could not detect much enthusiasm. Even worse, I felt miserable about having bought the dress. There is a picture of my trying on the gown with my mother and I look far from thrilled.

Last week, I stumbled across my perfect dress mentioned online, sold at 50% off in a sample sale. This time, I took my fiancé’s sister. Also, I didn’t let myself get discouraged by a dress not fitting, that’s what seamstresses are for. Finally, I am happy with my decision. The dress is so pretty, we have named her. More importantly, I will look like me on our wedding day, not some bridal magazine version of me.

So, it’s all good now, right? Not quite. I haven’t told my mother yet…

PS: Wedding dress for sale.

All Quiet on the SwissMinx Front

So, writing has not come easy to me recently. I say “recently”. I’ve not posted a blog post in over a year. Sad thing is, my hard drive is well stocked with unfinished pieces – bright moments of ideas that died on their feet, or rather at my fingertips. It’s not you, it’s me. Well, some of it is you, like not wanting my ex to have an insight into my new life.

I have lost that blogging feeling. I hope it’s not gone, gone, gone forever.

Hardship

I met my first love when I was 16. He was wonderful: tall, handsome, older and – best of all – very into me. We were infatuated, inseparable, we were going to last forever. There was just one problem: his little sister.

Boyfriend and I came from different backgrounds, you see. He lived in suburbia with a set of well-off parents who, after 20 years of marriage, were still happy with each other. His mother was dedicated to the family and only went to work one afternoon a week to enjoy a change of scenery. I lived in the middle of nowhere with my hard-working lorry driving mother and a violent, drunk, illiterate stepfather. So, what was the issue? Adored by her parents and taken care of in every way possible way, Little Sister (who happened to be one year my senior) had always enjoyed a sheltered, secure life. She worked a few hours a week because she loved the experience and wanted to spend money on designer clothes. She was spoilt and moody. When things didn’t go her way, her temper would kick in. I remember witnessing a tantrum (including slamming doors and tears) over the fact that Boyfriend had lent me a really cool Adidas T-shirt for a week, and not to her. Anything minor could set her off. And her parents would both do their best to console her and put the world right again for her. At first, I was puzzled by her reactions, but as the years went on, I got irritated and wound up. I also learnt to ignore them. And her, eventually.

I was reminded of Little Sister recently when someone, who was having a drunk melodramatic moment, told me how emotionally scarred they still felt over the fact that their parents prevented them from studying their preferred subject at school (school, not university). I was trying to be empathetic, bit my tongue and listened. Inside though, I was screaming.

I didn’t fight with my parents over what subjects they thought I should study. I fought to stay at school.

My mother, who had been left by my father while pregnant with me, got married when I was seven. An uneducated bully who had been living with this mother all his life and enjoyed the sauce, her new husband changed our lives the moment he became part of our family. He wanted our mother to himself and resented us kids. His believes were the only valid ones, and we were supposed to adapt them, without ever questioning his authority. Problem was, my brother and I were both blessed (or cursed, as it turned out) with quizzical minds and we did challenge his views frequently, both voluntarily as well as by accident. We got punished for it, often physically. My brother suffered the beatings way more than me, mainly because he was a boy. My stepfather’s threshold to hit a girl was set at a higher level. I did have to endure physical punishments as well, however, I was tortured on a more evil level. A firm believer in traditions (when it suited him), my stepfather viewed a woman’s place in the kitchen and motherhood the only role worth striving for. Thus, my decision to continue my education in order to pass my Matura (A levels) was neither appreciated nor welcomed. Luckily, I had the authorities on my side. Due to our family situation, I was given a grant by the Swiss government. It meant I could pay for my schooling. And so I did. When I wasn’t at school, I spent my time babysitting and always held summer jobs. I wasn’t poor, I had everything I needed. I had to be more frugal than other kids, yes, but I wasn’t hard done by financially. The tough bit was the psychological war raging at home. It felt I had to defend my decision to follow academia daily. I wasn’t given time to study, I was given chores. I wasn’t asked how things went at school or if I needed support. I was the first in my family to go for the Matura and yet I felt no pride coming my way. My stepfather prevented me from doing schoolwork in the evenings, so I had to develop a pattern of studying at night. I would drink gallons of coffee and keep myself awake between 10 p.m. and 1. a.m. (Up to this date, I can’t drink coffee and despise dishes with coffee flavour.) My grades eventually reflected the situation at home as well as my poor health. Six months before the finals, I was recommended to repeat the year. All negative factors had collided and I spent most of my time in class crying and too shattered to follow the courses. My teachers didn’t think I would pass the exams.

Then, a miracle happened. After a heart to heart with my mother in which I confessed I was thinking about moving out in order to save myself, my mother filed for divorce and we moved to a new home. My health improved, as did my state of mind. I was given time and silence to study and turned it around. I passed those exams. Just. But I did.

Listening to my drunken friend that evening, I didn’t say anything. I used to get furious with people like Little Sister who would break down over seemingly trivial matters and issues I considered less tragic than mine. I have since learnt to accept that everybody’s pain is real. Also, some of the pain we experience  in our life seem to diminish in later years. Remember when you were a teenager, getting a spot was a massive deal. As an adult, you may get annoyed but you won’t lose any sleep over it. I’ve realised that it’s worth to have a cold, hard look at the facts and to analyse how bad things really were. It has helped me to move on as well as to appreciate how far I have come. Paying for my own schooling felt unjust at the time, however, at no stage did I ever have to worry about leaving school due to lack of funding. Working part-time from the age of 14 did not do any damage to me either, on the contrary. I remember getting a very plush summer job at a law firm because they considered me hard-working and diligent.

I no longer scorn people who have not experienced real hardship. In fact, what is real hardship? And who am I to decide where real hardship starts and where it ends? At the end of the day, whatever hardship we go through, someone else always has it tougher. Every day I log on to twitter and read about someone’s life taking an ugly turn: I’ve seen parents mourning over children dying, people writing about living with HIV, tweets sent after a round of chemo. Heartbreaking glimpses into other peoples’ hell. It still baffles me, however, how some of us get dealt a tougher hand than others.

12 years with my stepfather have left their scars. I do find myself getting angry sometimes about the pain and endurance I suffered in my childhood and teenage years. However, you won’t find me crying my eyes out after a bottle of wine, pitying myself. That is because I have recognised that I have, in fact, won against him. I have been victorious. I stood up for myself. As clichéd as it may sound, I have learnt from my past and it has made a stronger and more courageous person. Maybe those who pity their lives do exactly that, feel sorry they did not stand up for themselves. Maybe some pain is just too deep to forget. Maybe I am in fact lucky that I have never had to experience such pain.

The most wonderful and memorable people I have met are the ones with a “story”. My stepfather has given me a story, he has also given me a voice. I won’t thank him for it though.

Britainversary

What were you up to on 2 April 2011? Do you remember your schedule for that day, its smells and sounds, the weather?

I do. It was the day I moved to the UK and I recall every detail. What I remember most is sitting in the lounge at Basel Airport, sipping champagne and enjoying the well wishes from Twitter coming my way. It was a stunner of a day, bright sunshine filling the room. I remember taking a picture of the gate, as I turned around one last time before boarding the plane. Most of all, however, I remember how utterly calm I was. In Switzerland, I used to be a person of constant turmoil and questioning, always looking for something without knowing what exactly I was chasing. On 2 April 2011, it all made sense.

It still does. A year later, and I am still convinced that the move to the UK was the right decision. I also feel very privileged that I got to follow this dream of mine of moving to London. I spent my Britainversary sipping pink English sparkling wine and reminiscing about the rollercoaster of emotions those 12 months were.

Last autumn, I was arriving at guitar lessons, tired and close to tears, after a row with a company over money they owed me and tired of working gruesome late shifts. Ryan, my Canadian teacher, looked and me and said: “Rose, the first year in a new country is hell. I was on survival mode for most of it.” He has no idea what difference that statement made. At that stage I was convinced that I had just not tried hard enough. When moving over, I was convinced I had come prepared. How naïve of me.

Very few things have gone to plan. When moving over, I believed my degree and – most of all- my language skills would be in demand. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. I spent the first few months sending out CVs and cover letters, making phone calls to headhunters and agencies without getting as much as a response. First, I felt cut off and trapped in my new home, later, a notion of being worthless crept in. I had my mind set on getting into Marketing and I wasn’t going to budge on that. Eventually, I had to and then I did work. I was very fortunate to being offered a contract on set of a TV production, a challenge for which I gave my all and which made up for a lot of heartache and frustration. Sadly, it was a limited project and ended far too early. All jobs I got offered were temporary ones. Most of them weren’t intellectually challenging positions, which left my bored and frustrated. At some stage, I worked late shifts from 3 – 11 p.m., for peanuts. Those were dark weeks, in many ways. I felt isolated, lonely and constantly exhausted. However, I kept telling myself that things would change eventually. Everyone who has ever been in a similar position knows how frustrating it is to be playing that waiting game.

Breaking point came in March. I had been made redundant in January by my last employer because of lack of projects. I was living off my last savings and my mothers’ generosity while going for interviews for very junior positions. To cheer myself up I went to a gig – and got mugged. Phone and purse were gone. I couldn’t afford a new phone, which meant I couldn’t be contacted for interviews. And for one day, one very bleak day, I was ready to admit defeat, pack my bags and go back to Switzerland.

Why didn’t I go? Because my mother came over and talked to me. My mother, who misses me terribly but would much rather miss me than having me back unhappy in Switzerland. I also ended up calling my ex-fiancé (of all people), who recognised the urgency of the situation and for that one phone call became the close friend he once was and put aside the history we shared.

The week after it all changed. I was offered a permanent position in a decent company who look after their workforce. I work long shift hours but the shift pattern allows for me to study for an MBA, for which I have applied to start this autumn.

I have also recently signed the contract to take over the cosy flat I have been sharing since June with a caring flatmate. He’s moving on, I am staying put. It’s a beautiful home in a neighbourhood that makes me smile when I get home in the evening. I am blessed with an amazing circle of friends and I am particularly lucky to have this one friend who has accompanied me through all stages of the process, from getting made redundant in Switzerland to taking the plunge and selling off my old life and arriving in the UK. I have since become part of her family and have experienced generosity, warmth and love that have brought tears to my eyes on many occasions. I have also learnt that moving countries means losing certain friends. Out of sight is indeed out of mind. At the same time, I have developed fantastic new friendships.

I have never had so little funds at my disposal since college. And I haven’t been so happy, ever. They say home is where the heart is. Mine is here. I’ve fallen for this city and this country – hook, line and sinker. So, here’s to another year. And many more to come.

What I Would Teach my Daughter

It’s ok not to be the most popular girl in your teens. Focussing on your studies and your interests may make you Geek of the School for a while. I am not going to lie to you, “a while” can sometimes mean years. Push through it. Focus on your studies. Broaden your horizon. Go as far academically as you can. The world will be your oyster. That über cool girl who gets all the boys and has branded you a massive loser? One day you will be chairing a meeting and find that she is serving you coffee. It’s a triumphant moment – you will have one, too.

Learn about Photoshop. Realise that all those glossy pictures of flawless women are fake. Embrace your curves. Be the weight and shape you are comfortable with. Celebrities don’t eat what they want and stay skinny. It’s as much a myth as Father Christmas (my apologies if this is news to you).  Ignore sizes. Accept that some companies use their clothes as marketing tools and design their cuts so they don’t fit anyone bigger than a broom. Don’t ruin your health and teeth with an eating disorder. Develop a healthy relationship with food because if you don’t, you will miss out on one of the big joys of life.

There is nothing wrong with being sexual. Explore your body. It’s an enigma but a beautiful one. Learn to love yourself first before you let anybody else influence your journey of discovery. Ask questions. Find your own boundaries and never ever let yourself be pressurised into anything. Never ever fake. There is no right age for the first time but remember this: It will turn out to be an important moment so share it with someone you will remember fondly. And always, always protect yourself.

Even if you don’t expect or even want him to leave his wife, don’t sleep with a married man. You are worth so much more – a true partner and a friend. He is not your friend. He lies to the woman to who he vowed, in front of witnesses, to cherish, love and respect for the rest of his life. He doesn’t stick to the big promises. The long, heart-felt emails, texts and phone calls will stop once the deed is done. He will then discover that his wife is actually not as bad as he had portrayed her.  You can convince yourself, you don’t love him and that what you have is enough. However, there will be a moment you need a strong shoulder and you will see his suddenly oh so busy backside doing a runner faster than Sonic the Hedgehog on acid. Don’t be the other woman. Be the No 1 woman or enjoy being single.

You will hear that woman have the same rights and privileges as men. Chances are very high though you will encounter or even hit the glass ceiling. You will have to deal with sexism, you will be overlooked. Yes, it’s not fair. It’s ok to cry about it. Then move on and fight for your rights. Be realistic about your abilities and never forget that they don’t depend on gender. Remember what Samuel Johnson said: “Nature has given women so much power that the law has very wisely given them little.”

Gimme a Break

“Your pupils are not the same size.”, hearing the words I knew I was in trouble. I realised I was very sick. The doctor went on talking about scheduling an MRI. I tried to talk my way out of it. Yes, I was feeling rotten but surely it couldn’t be that bad? They were not letting me go anywhere.

A few hours previous I had gone to see my GP because I felt, well, just not right. I had spent the night with a nurse friend after abandoning my commute to work, realising that I couldn’t concentrate on my driving. It took the GP five minutes and two tests to come to the conclusion I needed to get to hospital, this very instant.

So, here I was, in hospital, getting examined  by ENT specialists because my world was spinning and wouldn’t stop spinning. I also kept falling over to one side and my face was no longer symmetrical, i.e. one side was not responding the way it ought to have done. And now the different sized pupils.

For a couple of months after, life became a blur of hospital visits, tests and days in bed. My memory had taken a big hit, I couldn’t remember details, such as  names but also seemed to have forgotten big lumps, like how to speak Italian. I also found it hard to concentrate on anything. My parents later told me of moments where I asked them the same thing again and again.

I never received a conclusive diagnosis. Tired of being prodded and tested, I informed my GP one day that I was feeling well enough not to care anymore. It was months later when a specialist told me that I had probably suffered a minor stroke.

Why am I telling you this? Well, this happened last October. Only last October. I realised this week that I feel fully recovered. This July I still felt frustrated over some weaknesses my memory presented.

This illness, this major failing of my body, was the beginning of a new era. Because of me missing work and falling behind, I was made redundant. I was devastated and yet I felt that being laid off was not going to be the end of me – not after what I had just survived.

So, I looked at my dreams and started planning them.

Here I am, nearly a year later – now living and working in London. Not only have I changed countries, I have found a fantastic home I share with a wonderful flatmate, I have found employment (even if it’s temporary positions), I have fought my way past red-tape, hurdles and challenges; all of this in a language that is not my mother tongue.

Again, why am I telling you this? Because I have a tendency to belittle my achievements. I give everyone but myself credit for where they are. I draw unlikely comparisons to people who have not had the same challenges as me and I feel like a failure because their lives seem so much more advanced. Only this week I was going through a dark spell: My efforts to find a permanent position back in Marketing have proven unsuccessful since April. My worth was declining with every rejection letter. I felt I was drowning with people watching from the sideline, refusing to throw a life buoy, shouting: “You are an ace swimmer, you can do it.”  Then, on Friday, I had to go to Central London in the morning for a meeting. It was a beautiful, crisp day. I found myself in Piccadilly Circus watching the hustle and bustle and something clicked: I am in London. I live in London. This dream of mine, I have achieved so much and step by step, I will advance much further.

So, I’ve decided to give myself a break. This doesn’t mean I will stop fighting, it means that I will, once in a while, take a deep breath, look back and say to myself: “You’ve done well.”

Confidence

I am writing this sitting on a leather couch in a waiting room. What am I waiting for? To find out whether my German is good enough to start a job as a German Games Tester.

I am Swiss. I grew up speaking German. I did a business degree in German. For my Matura (A Levels) I focused on languages and wrote essays on such literary heavy weights like Bertold Brecht (Mutter Courage) as well as Theodor Fontane (Effie Briest). Yet, I find myself here, after an hour of assessment centre, shivering and hoping that I will be good enough. It’s like after an exam, when all I can think of are the questions I couldn’t answer or suddenly realise what I should have said. This runs deeper though. First of all, I suffer from terrible fear of exams. At 36. I know. Pathetic. I panic, I blank, I get stressed, I blank some more. Game over. Sadly, this extends to anything resembling an exam situation, such as an interview.

I am the kind of candidate who prepares well for an interview: I read the company website, I analyse their annual reports and check the news for the latest clippings on them. I always dress well. I arrive early. I prepare three questions. Yet, when recently asked what I knew about a company, I froze. I simply couldn’t remember. Let’s just say the interview went downhill from there. I received feedback from HR days later that I could have been more prepared.

I am petrified of failure. It keeps me awake at night and gives me nightmares. I have a recurring dream, in which I go back to working as a flight attendant (an occupation which I adored and did successfully for six years). In my dream, I am put in charge, just like I used to be. The flight always ends in disaster as I can’t remember any announcements or procedures. I am even dressed in the wrong uniform. I was an excellent flight attendant, you see. In fact, it’s the only profession in my career that I am confident to claim I was good at. Well, the last three years of it. Intellectually, I am aware of the fact that it’s a dream and not a reflection of my performance then. However, I still wake up in cold sweat every time my brain decides to play this trick on me.

I am always amazed when people comment on how confident I am, independent and strong. I agree that I am independent, in the financial sense as well as emotionally. I don’t need to team up to follow my interests. I have also mentioned before that I enjoy a certain level of solitude. Am I strong? More than others, yes, simply because I had to be. I’ve had the sort of childhood that would toughen anyone up. My mother, a single mother of two, relied on me from an early age. Breaking down was simply not an option. I remember as a teenager being puzzled about some of the things my peers got upset about.

In my opinion, it’s wrong though to believe that independence and strength equal confidence. Confidence is about believing in oneself.  The Free Dictionary (www.thefreedictionary.com) defines confidence as “Trust or faith in a person or thing.“ Here it’s where it all goes wrong. During the interview this morning, I told the interviewer that one of my strengths were my language skills, yet, here I am, doubting my mother tongue. I believe that neither me nor my skills measure up, I have no faith in myself. These self-doubts have been part of my life for as long as I can remember and have been fuelled by redundancy last January as well as finding permanent employment in the UK, which has been mostly rejections so far. With every negative feedback, I doubt my worth even further. I am, as some of my closest friends say, my own worst enemy. I’ve been told by a former boss that one of the things he admired about me was that I looked at my weaknesses and strived to improve them constantly. He also detested the fact that I would constantly belittle my own achievements.

So where do I go from here?  I may not be confident but I am my mother’s daughter and she and her life have taught me this: You don’t quit. You brush yourself off and try again. And that’s what I will do.

PS: I got the job.

The Big Taboo

I’m lonely. There. I said it.

Loneliness is not something people are comfortable to discuss. As the writer Doug Coupland once said: “Forget sex or politics or religion, loneliness is the subject that clears out a room.” When I bring up the subject, people are quick to point out two things: 1) But you have friends! 2) Only when you are happy to spend time with yourself are you ready to have a relationship!

Yes, I am blessed with great friends; the sort of friends I can call at 3 a.m. to have a cry, the sort of friends who would cross the country to hold my hand, the sort of friends who invest time and money to join my mother for two hours of brunch when she is over from Switzerland. “Well, we are right then!”, I hear people say, “You’ve got friends who adore you, ergo, you can’t be lonely.” I love my friends, I adore spending time with them and I value their support. Here’s the thing about my friends though: They are not my boyfriend. Friends lead their own lives, rightly so, and even though we may plan a vacation together, we are not planning a future. Loneliness is not about having to spend time on your own. It’s not about lack of sex either. I am longing for the kind of intimacy only found amongst partners: the pillow talk on Sunday mornings, the need to call that special person when something extraordinary happens, that one soothing touch on your forehead that helps you fall asleep. Most of all though, I miss sharing hopes and dreams and making them happen.

Suggesting that I am not happy in my own company is a sure fire way to anger me. It’s an easy assumption. It’s even worse hearing these words from couples who seemed to have morphed into one person and lost their sense of individuality. Here’s how I see it: I am an independent lady: I go to festivals and gigs on my own. I go skiing without a companion. I’ve solo-travelled. I also enjoy Sunday brunches in the mere company of Time Out magazine. The quote the philosopher Paul Tillich: “Language… has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.” I enjoy said solitude, or “me-time”, as it has been dubbed. In times of stress I crave solitude to arrange my thoughts. I’ve also always chosen relationships where I was given time to myself. As far as solitude goes, I consider it a constant in my life. A vital constant.

It is difficult to fathom that in the days of Internet dating and social networking sites people still feel lonely. We have never been so connected with lots of potential contacts at our fingertips. We may flirt on Twitter, chat on Facebook and write long emails on Match.com and sure, there is a buzz. That’s all it is though, a buzz. That wonderful buzz (or rather the end of it) often exacerbates the loneliness, when reality kicks in. Like today, when I went for a walk and realised I was the only person in the park on my own and I couldn’t see how this was going to change any time soon. In moments like this, all I want to do is talk about the hollow feeling in my stomach and the sense of panic that’s gripping my heart without being told: “But you’ve got friends!”

Mutterns Hände

Mutterns Hände

Hast uns Stulln jeschnitten
un Kaffe jekocht
un de Töppe rübajeschohm -
un jewischt und jenäht
un jemacht und jedreht …
alles mit deine Hände.

Hast de Milch zujedeckt,
uns Bonbons zujesteckt
un Zeitungen ausjetragen -
hast die Hemden jezählt
und Kartoffeln jeschält …
alles mit deine Hände.

Hast uns manches Mal
bei jroßen Schkandal
auch n Katzenkopp jejeben.
Hast uns hochjebracht,
Wir wahn Sticker acht,
sechse sind noch am Leben …
alles mit deine Hände.

Heiß warn se un kalt.
Nu sind se alt.
Nu bist du bald am Ende.
Da stehn wa nu hier,
und denn komm wir bei dir
und streicheln deine Hände.
(Kurt Tucholsky)