Men Are Not What We Ordered On The Menu

Men are not the enemy; they’re just not what we ordered on the menu. Some we would bow down to whilst dribbling like pubescent teenagers. Others wear cardigans.

It’s understandable that the world would need the male species. Without them, the exceptionally thrilling sporting giants that are cricket and darts would be extinct and would therefore prevent us from living. No one would pose with a one hooped earring and end up looking like a mid-eighties George Michael. There would be no drunken brawls at Yates for us to film, put on YouTube and become internet sensations from. The globe, quite literally, would be at a standstill.

Women fail to see all these fascinating reasons for the existence of men. They can’t see the point in Spiderman when he’s clearly not a spider and the erection men have over HP sauce. They’re hurt by the obsession with Fifa; watching men run around on the pitch in slow motion was meant to be their personal enjoyment of the game. They’re bored of watching repeats of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air however much they fantasise about the lean, mean, comedy machine that is Will-hump-me-all-night-Smith.

The female species see only the bad in these Inbetweener-like creations. They sob over nostril-heaving underwear sat an inch away from the wash bin. They watch his every move on Facebook in case he ‘likes’ a woman’s Kim Kardashian-style selfie. They will waste their life away dissecting a text that ends with an ‘x’ and whether that is a secret marriage proposal with a hint of we’re-going-to-have-babies-tomorrow.

I must confess that I am one of these women. We just can’t understand them. Men confuse us more than Chris Martin being voted sexiest man of the year. Our well-developed, can-cook-more-than-beans-on-toast brains can’t function. It’s like the moment you found out in Maths that Pi wasn’t the kind that Jason Biggs became famous for; complete shock horror.

Women are simple. We like to cry about pandas, talk to inanimate objects and apply mascara with our mouths open. There’s nothing wrong or remotely illegal about spending time to cleanse ourselves in a shower after touching your beard or wanting to settle down to a guilt-free episode of The Only Way is Essex on an intellectual Wednesday evening. Kissing is a must unless your lips are drier than the Sahara desert and holding hands will gain you brownie points when we later decide if we’re ‘tired’ or not. Just remember, a hot dog without the bun isn’t fun for you either.

Women want Johnny Depp shipping them off to some dark and dangerous place in the Caribbean but end up with a caravan in Southend-on-Sea. Men want Jennifer Lopez in a maid’s costume in Manhattan but end up with their wife in a giraffe onesie in Hackney Central. We need to find a common ground where both sexes can accept each other even if they do the forbidden and wear flip flops. Let’s all agree, man and woman alike, to do the one thing that we both love doing – putting Hula Hoops on our fingers and pretending we’re married.

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Football is all Cock and Balls

Men know nothing about football. They think they are the superior gender who know and understand all in the world of the Premiership. Unfortunately, this is a lie that they’ve conjured up together in some ‘girls are not allowed because they have vaginas’ meeting to ensure they have full ownership over the sport.

They believe that women know nothing about football. How could women possibly have any understanding of a ball and the back of a net? It’s as obscene as the idea of Djourou being an ex-Arsenal defender. However, I’m here to prove that we’re not all moaning at you to switch off Sky Sports One on a weekend; we’re moaning at you to hurry up and switch it on.

I’m an Arsenal fan and I have been since I was a ten year old shouting at the computer screen playing Championship Manager. Jumping up and down waiting for Aliadiere to score was all part of the fun although the waiting felt as long as it took Scholes to hang up his ginger boots and retire. It was at this age that I took my first trip to North London’s answer to Buckingham Palace, Highbury, where I met old Arsenal legends and where my love of the all-cock-and-balls- game began.

The issue is as soon as a male football fan hears a woman likes football, they have an image of what that woman is like. She must be the ‘sporty’ kind, the kind that prefers Bridget Jones’ style underwear to a lacy G-string and who would rather scoff a hot dog than delicately eat a salad. This is not the case. I’m a ‘girly girl’ who would never go to a match without a full face of make-up and a perfect hair-do but it doesn’t stop me from screaming ‘stand up if you hate Tottenham’ so loudly I almost lose my voice halfway through the game.

Some will accept that women go to matches but they’re going to ‘impress’ a man. This is a sad reality. I know a lot of women who make out they know everything about football in the hope that a man will be on bended knee hours later. They say things like ‘United won on Saturday’; no dear, it was Manchester City, there is a difference. Maybe it’s their inexcusable behaviour that leads men to cast us with the same you-don’t-know-who-Gerrard-is brush although I’m not into discussing Liverpool midfielders.

Others try to test us. They accept that we are football fans so they try to get us to take a nose-dive like an embarrassing Didier Drogba through some mastermind-style questions. They ask us to name as many football clubs as possible. My answer is ‘get real’. A chuckle ensues as they think of something ‘difficult’ to ask someone with breasts.

“Name five Arsenal players.”

I’ll name the entire squad; even the ones we’d like to forget like the lanky, goal-less Yaya Sanogo. I’m not including the Emirates Cup in this statement because it amounted to nothing much like Torres’ move to Chelsea.

“Name five England internationals.”

I’ll name the entire pointless squad called up for the World Cup 2014 although is there really any point in embarrassing Englishmen all over again?

It’s basic information. Women who are football fans know the years their team won the FA Cup, they know Bergkamp’s best goals, they know the rivalry between Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane, they know that Wenger and Ferguson actually got on; they know just as much as your beer-swigging self. They could list the Champion’s League group draws for 2014, who scored the 1966 World Cup winning goal and how bad Rob Green is at international goalkeeping. It’s about time you swallowed your pride like Bendtner had to when he finally realised he couldn’t be classified as a ‘striker’ and allow us women to teach you a thing or two – maybe the offside rule?

(I know that most men really don’t feel this way; it’s all written tongue in cheek!)

All Sprout and No Bull

I hate meat. That’s my full admission and there truly is nothing more to it. I’m not an animal-loving, religion-preaching, peace-marching hippy that screams in meat eater’s faces in the local Burger King much to people’s surprise. The misconception of a vegetarian is laughable; we really don’t care if you consume half a cow in front of us or not.

I have to put a few things straight before I’m force fed a fish finger and forget what I feel right now. Meat-eaters think we all care so much about animals; we probably sit at home talking to our Noah’s Ark worth of pets whilst feeding them our very own cuisine of freshly cooked dust. However, the truth is some of us don’t. I’ve never been an animal lover. In fact, I thought that the juicy Quarter Pounder and cheese meal at Mcdonalds was created by the hands of God. It was only when I was a naïve eleven year old that I decided my consumption of the pig from a farm down some Kentish road was inhumane. I believed in animal rights whilst other eleven year olds were discovering the meaning of puberty. It was a rash decision that wasn’t intended to last a lifetime but changed every mouthful of food and probably every friendship I’ve ever had since.

Over the decade of my vegetarianism, I’ve chosen to hide my non-meat eating ways to please others or to shield that look of complete abnormality. It’s as though you’re a ‘friend of the earth’ that should be locked in a shed on an allotment closer to Mars than to any flesh-eating being on the planet.

Some men say ‘I’d never date a vegetarian’. Why, because you couldn’t use chicken breast in a game of kinky-but-tasty foreplay? The answer is normally because we’re ‘too fussy’ which really does make me splutter into my vegetarian curry. The only thing we don’t eat is the muscle, skin or any other blood-induced part of a dead carcass so I’m struggling with the fussiness part.

                There is a fundamentally irritating part of being involved in a vegetarian’s life however. Before going to any restaurant, there is a long winded process of checking if there is something remotely edible to eat before trekking forty minutes on an over-packed, body-odour stinking underground train to the restaurant. Most eateries offer two wonderfully imaginative dishes that have been cooked with as much tender loving care as the medium rare steaks; mushroom risotto and red pepper and cous cous. I can eat these once or twice or possibly a thrice time to settle the stares of meat-eaters shaking their head behind their menu but not at every single place I go to. Count yourself lucky that you have the pick of an entire eight page spread as opposed to hunting for the two little ‘V’s’ that are in the smallest print feeling slightly embarrassed of themselves.

As soon as people discover I’m a vegetarian, a classic line always follows ‘I couldn’t be a vegetarian.’ I want to reply with the straight up, all sprout and no bull answer of ‘no one is asking you to be.’ but I tend to smile and wait for the next line. Meat-eaters will then describe all the foods they couldn’t give up if they had an AK47 held to their head whilst holding a bloodied steak in the other. Just like you all don’t care that we divulge in the joys of a kidney bean and tomato burger, we have no interest in your heartbreak and sheer end of life in giving up a wing of barbeque chicken.

After discovering my deepest, darkest secret of vegetarianism, a boy at university branded me ‘sub-human.’ He said it isn’t right and ‘shouldn’t be allowed’ as though it was a murderous decision to all the carrots out there trying to escape my clutches. It was all very melodramatic until he proudly admitted that he got his so-called revenge on us fiends in society. If you can’t wreak havoc on those that deserve it the most, how could you call yourself a moral citizen? He proceeded to tell me that in his four years at Mcdonalds, he was in charge of cooking and always spat in the vegetarian meal when sending it to the customer at the front. He said it was much more effort to cook for a vegetarian. I mean after all, it must be extensively hard to cook one vegetarian burger as opposed to over a hundred cow burgers whilst admiring your arrogance in a compact mirror.

People may ask, and have done so in the past, why be a vegetarian if you don’t want to be? It is no longer a question of choice. They say, whoever they are, that you teach yourself phobias such as being scared of spiders or snakes. You’re not born with the inability to sit side by side with a nine foot anaconda whilst sharing a plate of dinner but you teach yourself that you can’t. Vegetarianism, in my case, is similar. I made a life-changing decision at eleven with no thought to the future or to what I was committing myself to in the long run; my rebellion was in full flow.

Once I started eating vegetarian food and growing tired of the constant crunch of tasteless beans and wiring spinach that sits in your teeth like an unattractive filling, I wanted out. I wanted bacon sandwiches coated in thick ketchup and roast dinners with a piece of tender lamb in gravy but I couldn’t. Psychologically, I’d taught myself it was wrong as though I was forbidden from doing it and this has stuck with me. There’s no going back and I will always be looked upon as going against our ‘evolution’ as human beings and the idea of the ‘survival of the fittest’. It’s amusing to think that at one point I believed my decision would change the world and now meat-eaters believe that I’m going against the world. Who knew that one tiny broccoli-consuming vegetarian could be so controversial?

I’m well aware that some people couldn’t care less either way. My boyfriend will sit and enjoy a vegetarian bolognaise without comparing it to the cow-back of ‘normal’ mince that he probably imagines when munching. I would encourage him, and everyone else, to stay with meat. It’s better for your immune system and you’re not constantly defending yourself against the small-mindedness of men with tiny genitals or women who believe that being outspoken means talking about things they have no idea about. However, for me, it’s better to be feeding the ducks than to be sat in front of a plate of them.

Catch-the-council-estate-kid-22

I’m a council estate kid. A kid that grew up around tower blocks and police raids and fights. A kid that ate little and saw a lot. I’m a twenty one year old that still feels like that council estate kid. There’s this feeling that I’m a poorer breed; a breed that should be kept in the estate and only let out after dark. After all, no one would be able to see us then.

When us kids from the council estate converse, there’s an acknowledgement that other people can’t see. We know hardship; it’s sort of settled in our bones like it’s the real strength waking us up every morning. We’ve seen things that other people either ignore or disbelieve in; we see life in its raw, truthful state. Broken homes, broken windows, broken bones. Does that make us less worthwhile?

I went to a grammar school; one of the best in Kent. It was Ofsted’s idea of perfection and my idea of prejudice.

            Sometimes, there’s no tell-tale sign of being from ‘that council estate’ but they’ll pick up on it. They’ll see things or hear things and eventually know you in a way you didn’t want them to. Your deepest secrets laid bare through Chinese whispers and playground chit chat. Soon, other parents will be warning their children to stay away from you as though you’re a disease that is spreading at the rate of the bubonic plague. They say you’re a ‘bad influence’ although you’re a straight A student with great prospects. Sometimes I wondered what they thought my influence would be. Pissing on the pavement by the school gates? Smoking my lungs away? I decided my lack of parental guidance and money was just too bad in itself.

            I didn’t go on many school trips and there were never any parents’ evenings but I knew what the difference was between an ambulance siren and a police siren. I knew I had a battle between education and reality and every one of those ignorant people in between.

I’d never bunked a day in my life until sixth form. The issue is, if you tell someone often enough that they’re nothing; they’ll soon behave like that. They’ll believe they may as well do what you think they’re doing because you’re thinking it anyway. I would bunk purely so I had control over something when I had no control over everything else in my life. There would be a sense of pleasure every time I’d sit in some café knowing I was meant to be studying Simone de Beauvoir in Philosophy at that very moment. It was like I’d taken life in the palm of my hand and squashed it to smithereens; I was free for some time.

When a council estate kid has the opportunity to go to university if they ‘get good grades’, it’s a tough scenario to be faced with. No one thinks you can do it. Your so-called parent doesn’t think you can do it. You don’t think you can do it. It’s a live or let die moment where you make a choice that will change your life although there are already so many choices that are sitting on your shoulders in great iron boulders. Teachers refuse to help you and the few that do patronise you to within an inch of your life. I faced such a decision.

My head of year 13 said, and I give a direct quote here, ‘you have mammoth amounts of work to do if you have even the slightest hope.’ It is a direct quote because I burnt it into my memory as though burning through layers and layers of negativity. I made a rash decision two weeks before my International Baccalaureate exams to actually try. I knew if I didn’t and failed, there would never be a way out of the estate. There’d be babies and drugs and every other stereotypical thing you can think of. For fourteen days straight, I revised solidly. People continued to tell me not to bother; it was a ‘catastrophic waste of time’. I passed all seven subjects with an A* in English.

            When you’re studying for a degree, you feel as though you’re part of some sort of underground revolution. As though we’re all going to rise up and take over the world with words and language and new found respect. It doesn’t quite work out that way.

I graduated in July 2013 and have been working non-stop since. There’s rent to pay and food to buy and an array of bills that stack up venomously month by month. I can’t move back so I’m alone in London with my degree and my past to push me into better things and a future that labels me as nothing other than who I am. However, there is a huge, fundamental catch 22 that so many people are failing to see or who are in full agreement of it.

            Companies nod along to your degree as though it’s as easy as reciting the ABC and then ask ‘what experience do you have?’ I ponder this carefully. If, like so many other council estate kids, I live alone with no help from parents or family, how would I be able to do unpaid internships? They ask for full time unpaid for three to six to eight months; how will we survive? When I reluctantly say I have no internship experience, I know they’re questioning my dedication or my loyalty to my craft that I love beyond anything. But I ask, doesn’t my work ethic that continuously pushes me to work at a place that offers me nothing show you more than a couple of internships on a generic CV? If I had the chance, I’d do every internship available. I’d write whatever they wanted me to. I’d sacrifice anything. Yet life isn’t just fields of gold and fortune, is it?

In my first year of university, my lecturer asked the class ‘can you teach someone how to write?’ I thought it was such a ridiculous question; of course you could hence the Creative Writing course. Now I know what that lecturer meant. You can’t teach people what they don’t already know how to do; you can only nurture and enhance their skills and talents. If I was to go for the same job as someone who has three internships under their literature belt, does that make them a better writer than me? Or does it mean they’ve had a luckier social upbringing than other people? If someone lives at home with no money worries and all the time in the world, it’s a wonderful thing. Of course it’s a wonderful thing to get out there and learn and grow from internships but what if you’re on the other side? Middle-class children from middle-class families will continue to be middle-class and us council estate kids, degree or no degree, will always be second best.

The catch 22 is that some people are born poor and some people aren’t. Some people are born with the love of both parents and some people aren’t. That is the way of the world and clearly, we’re still much more privileged than a lot of other people in a lot of other places. But how can we stop being poor if companies are continuously choosing those with the greatest experience but not the greatest skill?

Council estate kids aren’t envious of middle-class people; there’s no deep yearning to be any other ‘class’. The only thing we are, some of us, is motivated not to go back to the place that took away so much from us.

Some of the staff and pupils from my past said I may as well not bother. They said a council estate kid will get nowhere and I wonder now where exactly my nowhere will be?

Colours of the Sky

*These are our experiences only and this piece of writing is not intended to offend anyone.*

We all point out colours in everyday life; the colour of the sky, the colour of a blossoming flower, the colour of the sun. There are other colours that some people point out too. I hope that these colours don’t matter to you.

I’m white. Although, I’d consider myself a pale peach if anything but for the sake of argument, I’m white. My boyfriend of two years is mixed race. He’s half Jamaican, quarter Asian, quarter white. I know what you’re all thinking, sexy mix, but that’s not something I’ll delve into right now. Unfortunately, I’m not looking to be the next E.L James and write a new trilogy of porn. We are, in politically correct terms, a ‘bi-racial couple’. I’d say we’re just a couple.

When I first met my boyfriend, I fancied him because he beat me at air hockey but told everyone I’d won. I fancied him because he spent five hours taking us on four different buses trying to get me back home when really it was a simple half an hour journey. I just fancied him.

Taking him back home to Kent was easy. My Nan made him every type of meat you can think of to ensure he ‘got his strength up’; it was all very 1960’s. My Grandad greeted him with a handshake and whipped out his wallet to show my five year old self with cheeks the size of Africa. As attractive as I must have looked, my brother came in to rescue me. He made a few jokes and everything was how it was supposed to be.

However, when we went out for dinner at an infamous little restaurant just outside of Canterbury, I noticed it. It was no big drama. No raised voices or physical scraps; just an acknowledgement.

We were all sat around a large table, tucking into roast dinners when an elderly couple on the table opposite kept staring. I’m the least confrontational person since time began but this is the one thing that makes me want to stand up and quote the Bible or Martin Luther King or something that would make them see real life. My boyfriend ignored it. I stared back, cocking my head to the side and waiting for them to enjoy their own evening together. They spoke loudly and pointed. First of all, pointing a haggled old finger in our direction like a half-dead version of ET isn’t going to make me feel anything but pity. Second of all, saying that I’m ‘white’ out loud isn’t exactly a revelation. As shocking as it may sound, I hadn’t woken up for the eighteen years previous to that believing I was any other ethnicity but white. I was fully aware that my two white parents had conceived a white child.

My brother heard their comments and stood up. At six foot one with a fierce coat of man beard around his face, he looked slyly intimidating. I remember the days when he used to bite me for eating all of my Happy Meal and not saving him a bite of my cheeseburger but those days are gone. The couple continued to stare. Why is it that some old people think that there’s some strange hierarchy which they top because they’ve been in the world a few decades longer than the rest of us? I’ll get up for them on a crowded bus but I won’t tolerate racism.

My brother remained standing. The couple stood and faced us. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the plates of food they’d wasted. They’d spent so much time infatuated with the ‘bi-racial’ couple that they’d forgotten to eat. Either that or those haggled fingers couldn’t clasp a fork properly anymore. They refused to finish their dinner sat opposite us and were guided to a table in a different part of the restaurant. I hoped they had a Granddaughter who’d bring home a nice respectable white man to continue the real sense of equality that I thought this world was beginning to have.

I don’t want to paint a picture where it’s all one-sided but I’m not going waste my time recreating too many moments of ignorance. Everyone can be with anyone and I’ve chosen to be with a mixed race man. Choice is one of the most powerful things in this world and it is choice that I hold above race, class and any other form of grouping that exists.

I’m not going to sit here and say I’m ‘proud’ to be in a ‘bi-racial’ couple because that would mean that I see a difference in me and my boyfriend. We are what we are. I’m proud of us as a couple for who we are, not because we’re white and mixed.

We all point out colours in everyday life; the colour of the sky, the colour of a blossoming flower, the colour of the sun. There are other colours that some people point out too. I hope that these colours don’t matter to you.