Dance makes me feel like…

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Stepping through the door and looking out to the empty studio laid out invitingly before me, I can feel a beautiful flower of joy, blossom in the center of my body. And then its roots twirling and intertwining through every fiber of my being, until they eventually send ripples of excitement in every direction.

My limbs are like delicate paintbrushes gliding across the flawless white of a canvas.

Whilst an artist will use colour and an author will use words, I use my body to tell my stories and use the entire spectrum of emotion as my palate.

As I spin and spin and spin, I sigh a relief as the world melts completely away from me, like an ice cube left out on a hot summers day. While willingly allowing classical music to envelope me in a warm embrace, like the urgent yet tender hug of a long lost love.

Remember that feeling of invincibility you get after watching a superhero film as a child? Or that burning optimism that true love will find you next, after reading a romance book as a teenager? That’s how I feel every time I dance; like the impossible is possible…

The studio is more than just a close friend to me, it’s like a diary. For only on these hardwood floors can I truly be me and allow my heart to say what it truly wants to say, without a moment of self-doubt or second guessing.

There is no hiding when you’re dancing ballet; your body may be clothed but your soul is naked. But, be warned: any stresses from life you bring into the studio clamps onto your ankles and refuses to be shaken off like steel balls. So, whether it’s a cheating boyfriend or a sick relative, the necessity is… leave everything at the door, no matter how serious it is or how much it made you cry the night before, because the studio always knows and like a mirror, your body always reveals too much.

For me there is no cheat days and to my home I’m a fleeting acquaintance, always gone before the sun has a chance to raise. But alas, the constant sacrifice is worth it; how else could I truly feel free?

Paradise Love

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Director Ulrich Seild, provides audiences with an uncompromising study of the morally dubious nature of sex tourism. While the characters portrayed may be either black or white, the themes presented are anything but. Instead there is as much grey in his film as there are grains of sand on the gorgeous beaches of Kenya.

With skin etched with wrinkles and breasts losing their battle with gravity, in a society that idolises youthful beauty above all else, 50-year-old Austrian, Teresa (Margarethe Tiesel) finds herself venturing to Kenya masquerading as a sex tourist, when in truth she is in search of acceptance.

Surrounded by crystal blue water and a throng of young male merchants lapping at her feet, while on the surface Teresa may seem frustrated by the constant pestering, beneath it, it’s plain to see that the pantomime conceals how flattered she is. However, it’s Munga’s (Peter Kazungu) calmer and less pushy exterior that catches her attention and after a previous sexual liaison ended in disappointment, Teresa is keen to see where this new encounter could take her. With the thin vale of a mosquito net concealing their love making, Teresa soon finds herself enjoying many nights of heated passion with Munga.

Yet, despite Munga’s attempts to convince Teresa that love is forever in Africa, it soon becomes abundantly clear that it isn’t free either. From a supposed sister to a local school teacher, Munga jostles Teresa around his village as if she were a walking, talking ATM machine. But don’t feel sad for Teresa, it increasingly becomes apparent that her friends and Teresa to an extent, merely see the Kenyans as exotic playthings to only be eroticised and fetishized.

The nonchalant objectifications of the Black body is at its most visceral and uncomfortable in a scene taking place in Teresa’s hotel room. In celebration for her birthday, Teresa’s friends surprise her with a stripper, and then proceed to spend the night gawping at him and challenging each other to see who can arouse him first. Finally, when the stripper is unable to deliver on said erection, with causal abandon they quickly boot him out of the room.

Going against the usual roles of sex tourism, i.e men the pursues and women the objectified, by subverting traditional architypes, Seild cleverly offers himself the opportunity to explore the subject with watered down seedy undertones and a more empathetic approach to his main character. For instance, the scene in the hotel room would certainly have been a lot less palatable if it were four men and one woman.

Slow and the maturity to avoid over dramatizing, Seild also allows his audience breathing room to peal back the intricate layers of the film and work out for themselves where their loyalties truly lie and why.

No doubt Teresa desires the Kenyans only for physical intimacy and not as potential long term partners, but through the second guessing of her looks and naked vulnerability in front of each man, it soon becomes abundantly clear, in reality, that she desires the affirmation of her beauty more than just the sex itself. Yet, the brittleness beneath the stitched on smile was a fine balancing act Margarethe Tiesel was able to effortlessly pull off, with endearing charm and a real compassion for the character she was playing.

An eye opening film that challenges preconceptions and really causes its audience to pause, reflect and then consider the true price of love and how much they would be willing to pay for it –  Paradise: Love is continental filmmaking at its finest.

Just Friends

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A evening of laughter and teasing finally gave way to a lapse into silence. With my heart banging against my chest, it became impossible to ignore the way…
The street lights brought a glint to your eyes…the way a gentle breeze tussled the loose strands of your hair…and the way your parted and plum lips called out to me.

I just had to, I just had to lean in and kiss you. I couldn’t help it. But to my greatest dismay you recoiled, and even with your crestfallen face, it didn’t hurt any less when your words broke me into tiny little pieces…

“We could never be more than just friends.”

In that moment to save face, I tried to shrug it off as being swept up in the moment. And when I went home I even tired to delude myself into thinking, I could be content with just friendship. But I wasn’t and I couldn’t. May it be lust or love, either way my feelings for you ran deeper.

In the following days I tried to carry on as normal. But as you gushed or complained about past boyfriends, current flings and the type of guys you one day wanted to meet, in truth these were the moments I listened to you most intently. As you spoke, like flowers yearning for sunlight, my ears constantly contorted and reached to grasp at every ray of information that shone from your lips. Such details were the brick and mortar I used to construct your ideal of a perfect man. Yet as aloof, witty and mysterious as I tried to be, frustratingly you were always oblivious to my feeble attempts to shoehorn myself into your Mr. Right.

When such mimicry failed, shamefully I resulted to torturous comparisons between myself and the guys you dated. Leaving me with agonising questioning over why I could never be seen by you in the same light as them. And why I had been sentenced to the suffocating darkness of nonexistance in your eyes.

Then as you spoke about your sex life, behind the laughter and feigned interest each story was like a bullet through my chest. No matter how fleeting or scarce of deeper emotion, I grew jealous that such guys were so easily able to share in the splendour of your body, while to me it remained so agonisingly close yet so far away…

Trapped in a swell of negative emotions, I tired desperately to step away from you in the hopes that your absence would be the remedy to my ills. But it was during this self imposed exile that I realised the things I missed the most about you weren’t your body or beauty, but your friendship and mere presence above all else…

It was at this point the right questions arouse. Why did I need sex to feel close to you or your hand in marriage to feel appreciated by you?
With plenty of soul searching and distance to think, the truth unraveled itself to me. People fall in and out of lust all the time, but what remains a constant is the unshakable bonds of friendship that are always there to catch us when we fall…

As the weeks past, slowly my day dreams of you falling for me or yearning for sex disappeared and eventually I returned to my real self around you again. And as the sands of time fell, I finally learned to be present, content and to stop caring about requiting my love.

It was then I realised that while those random guys got your body for the night, I was gifted with things that were far, far greater…
Your laughter and the way it rang like church bells in my ears.
Your whale heart and the way it could so easily swallow me up with its never ending love and warmth.
And most importantly, your beautiful mind and its amazing ability, with just a few words to instantly change the whole way I saw the world and everything in it.

You say we’re just friends and  finally, I’m okay with that. For I realise now nothing in the world is as important or magical to me as your friendship.

P.S. sorry it took me so long to realise that.

Beware the quarter life crisis

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This is how it starts: one minute you’re stumbling drunk out of night clubs, falling asleep during lectures and spending pointless Thursday nights with friends, just swiping mindlessly on Tinder – oh sometimes there is studying, sometimes. Then three years later University shoves a degree into your hand, turns you completely around, points you into the direction of the ‘real’ world and then kicks you up the backside, sending you stumbling towards it. And before you can even think about turning around, the gates are slammed shut behind you. Like a dear caught in the headlights, all you can do now is stand in crippling fear at the endless sea of uncertainty and chaos you now have to wade through. No more lessons, no life jackets and certainly no option of turning around and crawling back onto the shore of blissful freshers. From now on, whether you sink or swim, it is completely up to you – oh and I forgot to mention you have 50k uni debt strapped to your back, so try not to drown. So yeah, welcome to adulthood, it might be a bumpy ride.

A midlife crisis? Ha! Don’t make me laugh. Do you want to know what a real crisis is? Try being between 21-25 and being ambushed everywhere you turn by society as it tries to shove endless expectation down your throat, until you can do nothing but gag on all the debilitating possibilities. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose your soulmate. Choose your future. Choose the rest of your life –  is the constant banshee scream ringing in the ears of young adults across the country, as I write these words. That’s why I always laugh when people talk about a midlife crisis, as if it’s this big scary thing – trust me it really isn’t. Let’s be honest, all a midlife crisis really amounts to is a shiny new car, some new ‘young people’ clothes and possibly even an affair with the next door neighbour. A quarter life crisis on the other hand – that’s real problems, even Hollywood couldn’t make a horror films as scary as that.

But, what happens when you’re in the grips of the quarter life crisis? Nothing much really, it’s like a casual stroll in the park – well, until the clouds over head slowly blacken, swell up and then drench you in a deluge of confusion, self-doubt and the crippling fear of not knowing what to do next. The world can be a scary place when you’re looking at from the bottom of a mountain. One minute you’re the biggest fish in the pond, the next you’re barely a drop in the ocean. That’s why it’s so daunting making the transition from adolescence to a credit card holding, mortgage paying, 9 to 5 working, full blown adult. And unlike our grandparents who had their entire lives mapped out from the day they were born: school, marry, have children and then die, our generation has been both cursed and blessed with endless possibility. Coupled with the fact that you’re still not completely sure who you are in the inside and what you want out of life, it can all seem too overwhelming.

Oh and don’t get me started on the internet. Social media has made a crisis of identity even more acute for millennials, now it’s practically impossible not to scroll through feeds and not instantly succumb to self-loathing and depression, as you’re bombarded daily with other people’s successes and how much better their lives are than yours. Not to mention that modern society is obsessed with youth and achieving success as quickly as possible, leading you to constantly compare yourself to strangers or friends achieving more, quicker and younger than you. “Malala Yousafzai received a Nobel Prize at 17, Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar by 22, Emilia Cline signed a three book deal by 25 – Jesus. What am I doing with my life!?”

So when we know we’re in a quarter life crisis, what do you do? Instantly you panic and then you panic some more. And when you’re all panicked out, finally two things go through your mind: first you think about doing a masters in some vein hope of recapturing your glorious university days and more importantly, avoiding the real world for just one more year. However, the potential reality of being saddled with even more debt, quickly dashes that dream… Secondly, you think about working some dead end job in the hopes that within 6 months you’ve made enough money to pack your bags and go ‘find yourself’ in South-East Asia, away from the stress of the west. You decide to follow the latter thought. But it never leads to riding elephants in India and shaving your head in Tibet, because before you know it you’re trapped in the seduction of the easy pay check and annoyingly your parents have suddenly decided to start charging you rent.

Just like the midlife crisis, ultimately there is no specific remedy or fairy godmother to magic it away, no quick fix. Instead it takes the realisation over time that it’s okay not to have all the answers from the day you leave university, and the more time taken to know what you want out of life, instead of leaping into things your heart really isn’t set on just to avoid looking like a failure, the sooner the right path for you reveals itself. It is also vital that you acknowledge the achievements you have worked hard for over the years and not torture yourself with things you can’t control. But the really important thing to remember about a quarter life crisis, is that it’s a transition period and it should not be seen as the end of something, rather the beginning of something really special – real life, your life.

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

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Tits, arse and a pretty smile. Despite the monumental accomplishments by some of the worlds brightest and best women, society still finds it embarrassingly difficult to look past the immediate appearance of a woman and value or even acknowledge her acumen and talent above all else, in the same way they can so easily do so with a man. Unfortunately, everywhere we turn women are accidentally stepping into the snare trap of the male gaze and being hoisted into the air by their ankles, flailing, unable to break free from the patriarchal restraints imprisoning them to one dimensional views of femininity.

A rigid ideal of female beauty has been placed on a lofty pedestal for so long, that it has led women to strive for increasingly extremer means of attaining it. For instance, across the internet women are now bizarrely being encouraged to use semen as a form of moisturiser, which quite frankly sounds ridiculous and most likely manufactured by a man, trying to justify ejaculating on woman’s face rather than the actual recommendations of a certified dermatologists. Even celebrities aren’t exempt from this struggle for perfection, high profile stars such as Naomi Campbell and Kim Kardashian have even opted for the DIY option of using sellotape as a means of altering or eliminating their “problem areas”.  Sure, some could try and defend this torturous beauty trend as a safer and cheaper alternative to cosmetic surgery, which always comes with certain amount of risks attached. But the very notion that even these women world renowned for their attractiveness, are pressured to artificially manipulate their bodies in some vein pursuit of perfection, still sends out a ripple effect of negativity for teenage girls across the globe.

Celebrities can and should do more when it comes to setting example for young girls and boys, after all they’re the vanguard of influence. It’s important for the likes of Kim and Naomi to actively utilise every opportunity to retake ownership and regain the truth that the female body is an amazing piece of biological machinery capable of running, hugging and fighting or anything else her heart may desire, rather than be a mere sexual object or canvas for male minds to project their fantasies onto. While for everyday women, it’s important to better understand the intricate complexities of their bodies and become better acquainted with their erogenous zones and knowing how to stimulate them, because why should male desire be satisfied while a woman’s remains mysterious and left wanting. Shockingly, even in this day and age a large majority of women still don’t even know the shape of their clitoris or even where to find their G-spot. Even more importantly, Women should castaway the shame of the menstruation and embrace it as a wonderful part of the female experience, especially considering that women’s ovulation and periods are the very reason humans can exist in the first place!

However, equality shouldn’t be a war fought solely by women, it’s important for men like myself, privileged by the patriarchy to also take a stand. Starting off by not holding women’s bodies to different standards to our own and applauding women who allow their body hair to grow naturally or who decide to forgo bras entirely in the name of comfort, rather than shame or brand them unattractive if they choose to do so. Ultimately, the bitter and sickening truth is that women aren’t afforded the same luxuries as men in society, they can’t be topless in the streets or online (like a man can) without baring the crippling weight of censorship, nor can they even express their thoughts or even just be a woman online without the onslaught of slut shaming and sexism. In general, society needs to learn that it can’t even begin to ascended to the light of its true potential, if we’re still willing allowing ourselves to be shackled to the dark ages – liberate our attitude towards women and we liberate humanity.