The big 30 vs. the big 25

The big 30 vs. the big 25

The big 30 vs. the big 25

Ever since I was a little girl, I always had the feeling I was too old for things. Life changing things that is. When I was 12 and wanted to become a popstar and read that Britney had started at the Mickey Mouse Club aged 11, I was crushed. How could I still become a popstar? I was already too old!
When I went off to study music at the Academy of Popculture in the Netherlands at the age of 17, I immediately didn’t like the one girl that was younger than me.

Funny thing is, I usually don’t notice age in other people. Hell, one of my best friends is 38. When I went for a drink with my (age) oldest friend a little while ago, we all seemed genuinely surprised when we realized realized there was exactly 10 years in between me and our newly met friend and 10 years between him and the friend I originally came with – 24, 34, 44. Still I revel in it when I realize I’m the youngest in a group, or when my older friends praise me for starting my writing career at such a young age.
Even now, at 24, having experienced and reached quite a lot in my life, I still worry about my age.

Many of my friends have recently turned or are turning 30 and, as society tells them to, they freak out. I tell them I don’t understand what the fuss is about; age is just a number, who cares?
But then I realize I’m a lying little hypocrite because was I not just yesterday freaking out over turning 25 in a couple of days?

The difference in how I perceive other peoples age versus my own makes me wonder. Why do we sometimes seem to be so hard on ourselves and not on others? It’s a ‘known issue’ that when you judge other people harshly, it probably means your insecure about yourself, and talking down on other people will make you feel better about yourself.
But what does it mean when you’re not hard on other people, but hard on yourself in one specific area of your life?

 

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Facebook paranoia

Facebook paranoia

Facebook paranoia

A while ago I had a dinner date with a guy, Mark, on a Saturday evening. To distract myself from my pre-date nerves, I was checking Facebook and Mark’s name caught my eye on the top right corner in the news feed. He apparently had just commented on some post.
I tried to ignore it but I just couldn’t help myself, it was too easy, just move my finger an inch to the top right on the mouse pad of my MacBook to see what he just did on Facebook. A picture appeared and it looked a lot like some electro party somewhere in the city. Mark had commented just a few seconds ago “looks cool! defo gonna come by and check this out tonight!”. I felt my excitement drop. Tonight?? He’s going to a party tonight?? And the roller coaster of doubt and paranoia started… Tonight?? Did he forget about our date? Is he planning to just have a quick dinner and then ditch me? Is he making plans in case he doesn’t enjoy himself? What should I do??
Panic-stricken, I Skyped my friend. Noticing how stressed I was made it perfectly clear how ‘out of the game’ I really am. Every little thing that had happened in this dating process had been a question mark for me. I explained my friend what I just saw on Facebook and asked her what I should do. After she heard my story she laughed. I got angry, it’s not funny!
I’m sorry, I’m just laughing because you’re so cute, stressing out over something someone said on Facebook.”
I sputtered. “Dude, listen”, she said, “it’s just a comment on Facebook. Do you have any idea how many times people say “yeah I’ll defo be there” when they are either just trying to be nice or just saving it as an option for next time. Half the time people click “attend” when they just want to be kept updated about the event or organization.” I tried to object but I noticed I was calmed by her casual reply. In the end I had a lovely date and I almost punched myself for stressing out so much over absolutely nothing. A brain fart in virtual space that I happened to see.

Technology is supposed to make life easier. Sending texts when you’re late, calling your friends for free on Skype while you can see each other, Facebook is almost the new mobile phone when it comes to meeting up and organizing things. But what about all these new ‘rules’ that apparently arise with all these new ways of fast communication and easy access into someone else’s life? And doesn’t having information about other people on demand, make it all the more hard to date/get acquainted with someone? If it wasn’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t have seen that my date replied positively to another party. Then again, if it wasn’t for Facebook (and Skype), I wouldn’t have known what to do and how to handle myself in that moment.
But is that really a bad thing? I can’t help but wonder if I would not be able to know all the time what people are doing, and if I would not be capable of discussing this stuff with several friends at the same time online as soon as it happens, wouldn’t that make me less paranoid, stressed and co-dependent?

No guts, no glory

No guts, no glory

No guts, no glory

Throughout almost my entire time as a student in the Netherlands, I was a bar tender. And as the cliché goes – you get a lot of attention as a bar tender. You’re easy to flirt with because people have to talk to you to order a drink (“2 beers and your phone number?” Guys, it will never work), and you’re less likely to throw a drink in the person-trying-to-clumsily-ask-you-out’s face, since that wouldn’t be very hospitable and all. When I first quit my bar tending job and moved abroad, I felt so at ease; nobody was bothering me, nobody trying to hit on me, I didn’t have to worry about dodging groping hands going for my bum, etc. But after about two months, I started thinking; wait a minute, what’s going on? Do guys here not like me? Am I still fun? I felt like I went from bar tender to invisible.

My friends all encouraged me to take control of my life and start asking guys out myself, some male friends were even claiming it was sexy when a girl asked them out. But as much as I wanted to believe this, I would be lying if I said that the sudden lack of guys flirting with me, didn’t take its toll on my self-esteem. (I have to add that the German way of flirting is very different from the Dutch way – direct and obvious -, something I still haven’t fully grasped after 2,5 years.) First of all, I had never asked a guy out before, and second of all, I figured if guys didn’t ask me out, they must not be interested.

Since getting up in the middle of the night to ask my neighbor out for a coffee via Facebook after chewing on the idea for 6 weeks and literally getting tired of being nervous just thinking about it last summer, I have gradually taken small steps in the right direction. Last July I was away for a month in a cottage in the woods in Canada with a very good friend of mine, and as happens when you’re away from you day-to-day life for so long, I started thinking and reflecting about all aspects of my life. It had already dawned on me that I should just take control, and as my friend had said to me about life in general: ‘if you put yourself out there and go after what you want, you will have a successful life’.

Towards the end of my trip I met a nice guy on the bus from Toronto to the town close to the cottage. On the bus trip, we talked for two hours and he offered that I could wait at his place until my friend was picking me up. I had kind of hoped that there would be a kiss involved in there somewhere, since I liked him and I got the feeling that it was mutual. By the time my friend came to pick me up, there had been no kiss. We said our goodbyes, I got in the car with my friend and told him about my bus trip. My friend asked, “so did you guys kiss?”, I was disappointed to admit that no, we had not. My friend responded, “well, that’s not a nice ending to this story. You know what you should do? You should go back to his house and when he opens the door, just kiss him. Now THAT’s a good story.” I didn’t give myself time to think – I was in a foreign country, leaving in a few days, and had nothing to lose. So I said, “yeah, you’re right, let’s do it.”
In the few minutes it took to drive back to his house and prepare myself for this ridiculous moment, I went through all kinds of levels of terror, anxiety, and doubt of my mental health. But I went there nevertheless, and when he opened the door, I clumsily stumbled that ‘I had kind of wanted to kiss him… but I didn’t…’, he stepped out onto the street mid sentence and kissed me right there – yes, just like in the movies. I felt so empowered, bold, and downright ballsy, that this was a turning point for me.

A few weeks after coming back to Berlin I decided to tell a friend that I had a thing for him and after he turned me down (gently but still), I had expected to feel sad and insecure, but quite the opposite happened. I felt so good about just coming clean and not dragging this information around with me anymore, all the while turning this mosquito into an elephant. I had put myself out there and got it off my chest. And the positive feeling I had after a negative response was quite astonishing.
I feel like I’m finally fully grasping what it means take risks in life, put yourself out there, and even if the outcome is not positive or exactly what you want, if you allow yourself, you can feel so empowered by the simple act of doing it, that you feel like you’re on top of the world anyway, and the feeling you get from taking control of your life, is mind-blowing.
Just remember that you will not die doing things like this, and have you ever felt that when someone asked you out, they shouldn’t have? Probably not as much as you feel flattered that they did.

The Blame Game

The Blame Game

The Blame Game

I had a talk with a friend and his younger sister a few weeks ago after I had just gotten my new tattoo. We got to talking about tattoos and tattooshops in Berlin. I recommended one to her, and my friend, initially worried about his little sister and her tattoos, revealed that even he might want to get a big piece himself next year and that was it. Or so I thought. A few weeks later, the younger sister had gotten a tattoo, on the same spot on her body as I had gotten mine. My friend jokingly became ‘angry’ with me and implied that she had gotten the tattoo because I had been talking so positively about mine.

I understand you want to blame somebody else for your own weaknesses and challenges – you can come over but you can’t smoke, otherwise I will smoke as well! – but why feel the need to blame others for mistakes of people close to you?

I don’t say I’m guilt free of any form of ‘the blame game’. In my case, I tend to point out things around me that make my mistake feel less bad towards myself. Example; I was in a car with a friend of mine in Canada, and we had just gotten coffee (if that’s what you can call it) at Tim Horton’s at a stop next to a highway. I was sitting in the passenger seat, trying to open my sandwich bag with my cappuccino held together by my knees when my friend accelerated and the contents of the full coffee cup spilt all over my jeans and the passenger seat. My friend exclaimed “oh my god! what are you doing?” and after apologizing, I immediately said “to be fair though, your car is a fucking mess already” (which it was, but that’s beside the point). I shift the blame onto the messy car to make my stupid action seem less bad, even though it is quite irrelevant.

We are all responsible for our own mistakes and often learn the best after we’ve fallen ourselves, instead of steering clear after someone warning us. I know I’ve made mistakes I could not have learned from if I had not actually made them. Why do we then feel the need to protect the ones we love by shifting responsibility for their actions towards the influences around them. In the tattoo case, had it not been me (if it even was), it would have been someone else. And would it not have been someone else, something else would’ve done the trick.
Do we find our loved ones weak but we simply don’t want to admit it? Does it come from an uncertainty within ourselves, meaning we find ourselves too weak to protect the ones we love? Or is it simply that we sleep better at night, knowing we are less to blame for the pain or bad choices of our friends and families, making it easier to close our eyes when we’ve shifted responsibility to an external enemy?

To travel is better than to arrive

To travel is better than to arrive

To travel is better than to arrive. The meaning of this quote is ‘the journey is more important than the destination’, ultimately saying that you should cherish the path towards your destination and appreciating the obstacles you go through while trying to reach your goal and realizing it’s okay to not reach your destination, as long as the path if fulfilling. Ever since I heard my father say this inspiring quote to me when I was a little girl, I’ve had a slightly different, let’s say more shallow, meaning to this phrase. A very simply meaning, I don’t really care about when things I’m really looking forward to, don’t actually happen in the end.

Last Tuesday I was finally going to see one of my idols, Chris Cornell, live in Berlin. I had bought tickets to the Soundgarden concert and had been dreaming about it since that happy day. Unfortunately, on Monday I became sick and on Tuesday, I was not even slightly better. After dragging myself to the supermarket to get some food a few hours before the concert I realized it was going to be quite a tricky thing to get myself to the venue and manage to stay upright for three hours, let alone enjoy this amazing evening.
With pain in my heart I decided to sell my ticket last minute and buried myself under my blankets staring at the Chris Cornell poster next to my bed at 21.30 h, the time that Soundgarden had probably just entered the stage and I managed to sleep through the painful hours. Even though I was heartbroken that I would miss this concert that I had been looking forward to for months, I was still happy that I got to be happy about the anticipation; the looking forward to the event – ‘the traveling’ -, even though I never reached – ‘the destination’ -, the concert.
The heartache was manageable by the fun times I had before the moment of the concert; the sleepless nights I went through between finding out the concert would be happening and the day the tickets actually went on sale, the researching the set lists of previous concerts to prepare myself for ecstasy or disappointment, and the sweet taste of bragging and driving my flatmates and friends crazy with my bouncing anticipation of the approaching big day.

No one can take away the butterflies and anticipation I had in advance. Of course I’m sad that I miss a concert I’ve been looking forward to so much, but at least I got to enjoy the foreplay. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like foreplay?

Female responsibility

Carrie and Natasha in Sex and the City

Carrie and Natasha in Sex and the City

Recently, I heard one of my colleagues Lisa (25) talk about her weekend with two other female colleagues. She was telling a story about how she went to a party on Friday night and met an amazing guy who unfortunately lived in a city two hours away. Being completely absorbed in my work, I was not fully listening to the conversation at first, but something in the tone of her voice while she was talking about this guy, made me turn around and join in the conversation. Apparently, this amazing guy, had a girlfriend.

She was disappointed because he was SO amazing and they had been having deep conversations all night and she felt very connected to him. “But, you know, he said he wouldn’t leave his girlfriend so that’s it”, she said with a tone of ‘so that’s the end of it’. I didn’t believe her so I pressed on and she said with a hint of embarrassment that they had, indeed, kissed at the end of the night. But she felt he was bad news and that it would be better to stay away from him. We were in the middle of our ‘oh my god’s!’ when her phone buzzed. It was him. Vaguely wondering in the back of my mind why they exchanged phone numbers at all in this unfortunate situation, she said with excitement in her eyes that he said in the text that he would be in town this Friday for business, and that they could meet for dinner. I asked her if she thought it was a good idea to go out to dinner together after stating the facts of the evening again. “Oh that’s fine. We can have a dinner as civilized grown-ups and you know, as long as we don’t drink, nothing will happen.”

The Monday after, we were all waiting expectantly to hear about her dinner and, surprise – it turned out that they had had a few drinks and ended up in bed together. Us female colleagues got into a heated discussion and to my surprise, different opinions arose. A single 25-year old, Avril, thought it wasn’t Lisa’s problem and that she should go after what she wanted. Bella, our 30-year colleague who has been in a steady relationship for four years, was appalled. As there had obviously been a deeper connection, it was even worse than if they had just had a drunk one night stand. For her, imagining her boyfriend sleeping with somebody else was not the worst, but the fact that he had obvious interest in this girl, in this case Lisa, and had gone for it anyway, was worse. I myself was confused that Lisa had gone to the dinner at all, let alone exchange phone numbers, and felt that she should’ve sensed a glimpse of “female responsibility”. Isn’t it bad enough that guys seem to be easier in these situations, shouldn’t we support our fellow females; say no and stay away from these situations to help each other out? Nobody wants to be ‘that girl’, right?

It makes me wonder. Nobody wants to be the person cheated on, but do we want to be the person the cheaters are cheating with? Shouldn’t knowing that there is a girlfriend out there somewhere who will be hurt by her unfaithful boyfriend be a massive red flag? Is it up to us to keep a boyfriend from cheating, or is it really the cheaters responsibility?

We’re “together” now

'We're "together" now'

‘We’re “together” now’

About a year ago I met a guy in my German language class. He was a 29-year old, quite attractive French law graduate named Adrien. We got along very well and after the course had ended, we kept seeing each other a lot. The night before New Year’s Eve we were out for a drink and one thing led to another and it eventually led to five weeks of dating. After those five weeks we realized we were not in love with each other and that we wanted different things from a relationship so decided to stop dating and continue as friends as that had worked better. We both travelled a lot after that and were busy with our jobs and life in general, so needless to say, we didn’t see each other quite as often. Invitations for different house warming parties and concerts were exchanged so I was not very surprised when he sent me a message the day after my birthday to congratulate me.

I was online when receiving this message so we started chatting and I asked him if he would be coming to my birthday party two days later. He said he wouldn’t be in town so he wouldn’t be able to make it. I told him to give me a ring when back in town so we could have a coffee and catch up. He thanked me for the invitation but declined, saying ‘my girl wouldn’t like that’. It does not happen often, but I was flabbergasted. Not about the fact that he had a girlfriend – he was very much ready for a serious relationship – but about the fact that we apparently couldn’t meet for a coffee as friends. I replied casually ‘why would that be a problem? It’s not like I’m hitting on you haha’. He said his girlfriend didn’t like it when he met with ‘exes’. I exploded into shock so I said I thought it was ridiculous, told him to grow a pair and that I wished him good luck with that.
I was in the middle of unfriending him on Facebook (no need to keep a ‘friend’ who you are not allowed to see in real life, right?) when I received a reply. It was his girlfriend.

The message started off nice enough with wishing me a happy birthday and the information that she had just celebrated her birthday herself. Soon enough the gloves came off and the claws came out. ‘Not sure what I had meant by ‘wishing him luck with that’ but she pitied me and my tone of voice. Goodbye.’ My hands were in my hair and definitely itching – who was this (excuse my French) bitch whom I had never met replying for him and telling me she pitied me. In conflict with my rational head, my hands were already writing a friendly reply that I had not meant harm by my comment but that I simply thought it was ridiculous that I was counted as ‘ex’ and was therefor ‘not allowed’ to meet up for a casual coffee. I wrote grow a pair simply because I felt it was his obligation to explain to her that this situation was nothing sexual or flirty and that he should have had the decency to explain that to her. What happened after that, I still cannot quite comprehend.

A flow of digital jealous frenzy came pouring my way through the screen and with each sentence my disbelief grew stronger. It went from her seeing ‘no reason whatsoever that I should want to meet with him’ via ‘them living together now so she definitely had a say in this’ to ‘it being rude for me to ask him out for a coffee and not inviting her since they were ‘together now’ and that all his friends had the decency to invite her to all social events and that I had not which was, once again, a pity’. I did not reply after this but closed the screen with disbelief and confusion. Had I just been digitally ‘told off’ by a jealous girlfriend of a friend who I had happened to date a month or so a year ago?

I wondered why I was ticked off by this girl who meant nothing to me and was, in my humble opinion, totally wrong. Was it because Adrien obviously had put his spine in this girlfriend’s hands and that made me a fool to have dated him? Was it because the girlfriend was obviously enjoying the power she had over her man, making me feel embarrassed about being confronted with a stereotype of a woman? Or was it perhaps that I, thinking I have it all figured out as an independent aiming-for-21st-century-success type of girl, did not have relationships and what the balance should be like all figured out and approached the difference between men and women all wrong? With the sexual revelation supposedly behind us and women and men becoming more equal, is that really what we should be aiming for in a relationship and is that something that also men aspire?

Three buffed men in black

Berghain panorama bar; a famous, legendary, freaky techno club in Berlin for the young, hot and hip. I need to find the best outfit or they won’t let me in. I haven’t had eye shadow on my face in years but I’ve got to bring it all tonight or they won’t let me in. “Let’s play the gay-card, they might let us in for sure!”Unfortunately, the 2ndmale-player to actually play the gay-card has a date with a Russian girl so he’s out of the picture. “If they don’t let us in, flash your boobs!” “Maybe you should flash them anyway and they might let us in for sure!”

One hour, one make-up and dressing session and half a liter of beer later, we are on the way. The building is not impressive, but the three buffed men in black at the entrance sure are. In line we talk more tactics but I just say: “well, we can’t really change anything about it anyway, so we’ll see”, but you can see every brain waiting in line calculating their chances. It’s time. We’re up next. One of the guys looks us up and down and asks “zwei?”,we: “nein, drei”… “no, step out of line.”

As we walk the short distance back to the taxi I hear my fellow party people arguing about why we didn’t get in. I wait for the feeling of rejection to kick in, for a door in the back of my mind to open a can of unknown insecurities but as I’m standing there in my party outfit and a summer jacket, I actually just feel cold. Next stop: Watergate. Same game, different club. This time, after rejecting the people in front of us, we get in.

As we stand in line to buy our tickets and get frisked, I wait for the feeling of victory to kick in but all I feel is the frustration of having to pay € 12,- entrance for the party. After ordering a beer for € 4,- (!) we immerge ourselves to the dance floor. The DJ is ugly with an ‘80’s mustache but he’s good and I’m surrounded by young, hot and hip people. At least, I think so because it’s so dark I can’t recognize any features of my fellow young, hot and hip people standing further away than half a meter.

After an hour an a half of expensive drinks, dancing to techno and hurting my ears to the loud repetitive beat I think ‘fuck it’ and go home. Some people might argue that I should’ve stayed to ‘get my moneys worth’ but why waste my time in a place where I’m not enjoying myself? The only time I’ll pay €12,- to get in without blinking, is at the cinema. I’m not saying I don’t like dancing in clubs, and going out in anything other than a bar but the whole ‘being a young, hot and hip person in a young, hot and hip club in Berlin’ -game has been wasted on me from the start. For me, going out is a way to have fun and blow off steam, no matter what you look like or how much money you can spend. Because it doesn’t matter what clothes you wear or how much make-up you put on your face because the next day – hung over as hell in sweatpants and laziness – we’re all the same.

I should’ve told the DJ I loved his moustache.