Sorry, Not Sorry

A number of years ago, I was asked to participate in an ad campaign for Origins’ new skincare range. Participants were invited to fill answer questions about our skincare regime, what we disliked about our skin and what we wanted to improve.

We were then given Origins’ new products and asked to test them out for a month before answering more questions, this time about how we’d found the skincare range. We were then made-up and photographed. We were asked to rate the products from 1 to 10, and we were (supposed to be) photographed holding up the corresponding number of fingers to show our approval of the range.

The plan was to use our pictures in Origins’ local (Malaysian) promotional campaign for the products, but mine were never used because I didn’t rate the products. The reason for this was I didn’t actually notice a difference in the way my skin looked and felt. Mind you, I’d not expressed any dissatisfaction with my skin during the first round of questions. My skin care regime has always been just to wash with whatever soap I happen to be using in the shower and then slap on the ‘moisturiser of the moment’, i.e. whatever I can afford to get, usually Johnson’s Baby Lotion. I have never spent more than a minute on my skin and don’t pay it much attention, so I really would not have noticed even if the products had resulted in any changes.

It’s been said that the beauty industry would collapse if women were happy with themselves. Cosmetics companies depend on us finding fault with our appearance. Not noticing wrinkles, pigmentation and goodness knows what else women are supposed to stress about with regard our skin meant that I wasn’t an effective tool in persuading other women to part with their cash.

I never had a single pimple growing up, and I’ve been told how lucky I am in that respect, but I wonder if dealing with spots would have been easier than worrying about what others identified as my ‘weight problem’. Acne seems a more acceptable adolescent challenge than being overweight: Apparently, no one asks to be pimply, but you only have yourself to blame if you’re fat.

 

Review: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

things-fall-apartTHINGS FALL APART

By Chinua Achebe

(Anchor Books, 209 pages)

THIS was not my first reading of the book, but my third. I read Things Fall Apart for the first time in my teens, but I admit to only skimming then. The second time I read it was in 2014. For some reason, it was a hurried read and I did not retain much of the story.

Certainly, the first time I read it, I was a very silly girl who only read white authors. My Pinterest record of the books I read in 2014 has me completing the novel on 22nd Feb. Later that year I read other African authors like Gabriel Okara, Elechi Amadi, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Sefi Atta. I believe that was the year I decided to make a big effort to read out of my comfort zone, i.e. more Asian and African authors. However, as it was early days, the part of my brain that handles reading was stuck in a rut. It still had to be kicked in the rear out of its literary ditch.

Three years on and I think I’ve succeeded in getting to a place where it’s not just stories by dead white women that make sense to me. And yes, my ‘problem’ with Things Fall Apart was that I couldn’t ‘make sense’ of it. The writing style, the content – including setting and characters – the language, nothing about it was what I was used to. Thus, I found it hard to relate to, or made no effort to try. Sure, I had read and loved Maru by Bessie Head twenty eight years before, but that was probably due to it being an A-level text, i.e. reading it maybe fifty times over, and discussing it with my tutor would have ensured that that story made complete sense.

chinua achebe
Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)

My partner, Don,  is Igbo, which is the ethnic group of the characters in Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe was also Igbo). I think this has made a difference to my recent reading of the book. This time round, the story seemed familiar. I recognised details from what Don has told me about Igbo cultural traditions. The way of life described was still strange, but it was easier to empathise with the characters and not completely dismiss their actions as outrageous or nonsensical.

It also helped being able to discuss the book with Don. He offered a different perspective and put things into a context I would have found it hard to imagine on my own.

The story is heartbreaking, on the level of it being the tale of a man’s downfall, and also in a larger historical and social context, as the story of the colonisation of Africa. The final sentence of the novel struck me to the core. It sums up the reality of the situation – in the novel, in history, and in race relations today.

Vaginal Kung Fu

When was the last time you shot ping pong balls out of your vagina?

Sorry that this is yet another vagina post, but I think I spent a bit too much time on Kim Anami’s Instagram. Her posts are mostly (unintentionally) crazy-funny, her hashtags even more so: #fuckfood; #thingsiliftwithmyvagina; #amazingplacestofuck … but then I visited her website … OK, still funny, but I also now think this dame is seriously batty.

vaginal-kf3

Well, can you? The likelihood is you haven’t ‘mastered this essential life skill’, especially if you’re from the West, where the women mostly have ‘numb, under-functioning vaginas’. However, if like me, you’re from South-east Asia, it’s likely you can shoot ping pong balls out of your vajayjay as easy as spitting melon seed shells.Because, as she says in the video on this page (at 01:25), in many South-east Asian countries the art of vaginal ping pong ball shooting is ‘quite a popular sport’. Yes, we do it during PE at school, at family gatherings, on Sunday afternoons in the park, etc.

Could she be taking the mickey? I would like to think so, but no, her insane expression tells me she believes what she’s saying.

Incidentally, if there’s anything that might convince me to start exercising those Kegels, it’s the first item on Anami’s list of all the things a properly functioning vagina should be able to do. Now that would be worth even forking out USD199 for an Elvie.

vaginal-kf1

 

Spa a Thought for Your Vagina

Did you know there’s a sort of Fitbit for vaginas? Yes, it’s called an Elvie: ‘your most personal trainer’. For just USD199 you too can track your pelvic floor exercises.

elvie

Put it in, hook it up to the app and work the hell out of those Kegels!

However, if you prefer something more old school, there’s what is known as a jade egg, which was apparently what the empresses and royal concubines in ancient China used to keep their vaginas fit. Basically, it’s, as its name suggests, an egg-shaped piece of jade or rose quartz. You pop it into your vagina and, through a combination of the healing, positive properties of jade and the effort taken to keep it from slipping out and rolling away down the household cleaning aisle at Tesco’s, the egg is supposed to increase ‘chi, orgasms, vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general’. (The quote is from the goop shop, which shouldn’t surprise you. Who else can afford USD60 for an egg that you wear in your vagina, but Gwyneth Paltrow and her groupies?)

The Elvie is also featured on goop, as is vaginal steaming, not to be confused with the kind you would achieve when preparing nasi kangkang.

By the way, I was looking at pictures of jade eggs when I came across this person who takes photos that prove how strong her vaginal muscles have become thanks to, amongst other things, jade eggs.

lifting-weights

This is not a joke. Check out her Instagram for more pics of her iron vag (she describes herself as a ‘vaginal weight lifter, OK?), plus tips on sexual health: for the guys, get a ‘rock solid cock’ by eating betroot. Who knew!

Finally, and also vagina-related, I was looking for books (fiction and non-fiction) about nuns and convents (research for my novel) and came across Sister Katherine by Tracy St. John. Here’s the synopsis:

The Earth/Kalquor War seems far away to Sister Katherine and the nuns of the convent on Europa. That changes in an instant when an enemy spyship arrives and invades the tiny moon colony.

Katherine’s world is torn apart when she learns she is to become the mate to a clan of three fierce Kalquorian men. How can she save herself or the convent’s children from their conquerors when her body, heart, and soul cries out for the blasphemous touch of her captors? How can it be that her peoples’ sworn enemy is her only chance for true salvation?

sister-katherineIt’s pretty run-off-the-mill erotica featuring one woman (in this case a nun) shared (lovingly) by several men (in this case, three hunky aliens with blue-black hair, violet eyes and two dicks each – no prizes for guessing where the second one goes), but one thing caught my attention: the use of the word ‘sleeve’ for vagina. For example, ‘Her sleeve even clutched at Simdow’s finger, as it it would pull him further inside her.’ I know, right?

 

Fat Fears

My fifty-seven-year-old sister started wearing sleeveless clothes just last year. Mind you, she has always been considered the beauty of the family and is as slim as I am fat. When I was younger I resented her looks – especially when my father, in his capacity as an official at a sporting event, insisted that she present a bouquet to the guest of honour. My mother had suggested eight-year-old chubby me, but my father said my sister (sixteen at the time) should do it because she ‘looked better’. I was furious and felt very much my fatness and grubbiness – I’ve always felt that fat children feel much dirtier than their thin friends. For a start, we are usually sweaty and hot, and often sport red, angry faces from being fat-shamed.Read More »