ratchet

5 years ago my life changed

Anniversaries. I’m not the best at taking the time to celebrate those people and moments that matter. I forget, caught up in the current of every day triviality.


May 2012: I blew out my knee in kickboxing. Diagnosis: crutches and cane for 3 months + 9-months of daily physio to recover, with the possibility I’d never kickbox again. My identity as a cripple: confirmed.

July 2012: my mother died in her sleep. The depression I’d been fighting off since summer 2011 exploded with full force. I was a broken person. Drifting from day to day in a fog of misery.

Fall 2012: Superwoman suggested that I join the boxing gym she’d just discovered. It would allow me to work on my boxing skills, avoid losing too much of my fitness, keep me distracted through the long months of physio and rehab. I agreed to show up for one class. Limping down the staircase, hearing the sounds of the ring bell, the thuds of the punching bags, and the coolest trap music I’d ever heard, I felt like I was coming home – odd, considering that this was an environment in which I, crippled vanilla AF nerdy accountant, did not belong.

For the first year or so, I trained with Coach’s younger brother Slick, a pro-boxer and a coach in his own right. Slick did not have the time to impart much boxing knowledge on me, because he spent all his time trying to get me to work on my mental and emotional state. We didn’t use the word “depression”, but he could see I was not well. He made me do pushups every time I said something negative or mean about myself, even if it was funny. He encouraged me to read James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh:

“Doubt and fear are the great enemies of knowledge, and he who encourages them, who does not slay them, thwarts himself at every step.”

“Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot; it rapidly crystallizes into habit, and habit solidifies into circumstance.”

“As the physically weak man can make himself strong by careful and patient training, so the man of weak thoughts, can make them strong by exercising himself in right thinking.”

Slick turned my whole worldview upside down. 2 years later, when I started therapy, I chose an expert in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: “guided by empirical research, CBT focuses on the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems and changing unhelpful patterns in cognitions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes), behaviors, and emotional regulation.”


By late 2013, I joined Coach’s team. In 2014, I fought my first fights.

In August 2014, I slid into the most terrifying depressive episode I’ve ever experienced. Overnight, I transformed from a fighter into a fragile girl who would cry for 3-5 hours a day. Coach didn’t understand, but he could see. Scary Coach became Gentle Coach. The team accepted my quirks, and continued to cheer me on every time I stepped into the ring. They didn’t know the particulars of my struggle, but they could recognize someone fighting the good fight of life.

Boxing is an unforgiving sport. By stepping into the ring, every boxer tacitly accepts to show their true self to their opponent, coach and whoever is watching. You can’t mask cowardice or fake bravery when getting punched in the head. Every hesitation, fear, bluster and cockiness is blatantly obvious to anyone who watches. There IS no socially constructed mask to hide behind. To step into the ring, every boxer, no matter their level of experience and proficiency, has to be willing to be vulnerable, and to be seen. As such, I’ve noticed that most people at the gym don’t cling so tightly to their social personas – there is no point, when we’ve all seen their true colors in the ring. As a result, everyone is more authentic at the gym than they otherwise might be. Vulnerability + authenticity = key ingredients for friendship.

By the end of 2015, I knew. These people were family.


2016. A transition year. I joined Coach’s new project, weight-lifting and conditioning designed for athletes, specifically boxers. The immediate benefits were weight-loss and a changed body shape. For the first time in my life, in my 30s, I wondered: maybe, sometimes, I might be beautiful, possibly sexy. For someone who struggled with eating disorders (binge-eating until I was nauseous and abusing laxatives) during my late teens and my twenties, the gradual silencing of the vicious body-shaming voices in my head was an unexpected liberation.

Even better? Thanks to Coach’s extensive knowledge, patience and careful coaching, I shed, permanently, the lifelong identity of a cripple, of inhabiting a body that betrays me. I am athletic. I used to be embarrassed to admit I boxed, as though somehow associating myself – me – with that sport was arrogant. Not anymore. I was a boxer.

I understood what life lessons this sport was teaching me. It taught me that I can take a hit and still keep moving forward. It taught me that I can fight back. It taught me to own all of who I am: sweet Vanilla and angry Vanilla. It taught me that who and what I am is worth fighting for. It taught me not to wait for any saviors: I alone dictate my destiny, through my actions.

I understood why I needed to move onto dancing. Saying goodbye to this sport was hard, but necessary.

I kept training with Coach (aka Dr. Booté). I kept partying with my boxing peeps, with hilarious results (please refer to exhibit A and exhibit B). The friendships are still strong.


2017. This year was hard. Life, my shadow, got in the way of my joy. I drifted from the gym. But when things got too confusing, too overwhelming, like a homing pigeon, I made my way back. Sure enough, Coach and my crew were waiting for me.


How do you celebrate a place that has shaped my very identity, freed me of decade-long insecurities, given me deep and constant friendships, keeps me sane, gives me the tools to face life as an adult?

How do you celebrate family?

#udnation

#udfamily

 

 

Advertisements

Who knew M&Ms could wrap?

While in Toulouse, FroMan invited me to join him and his friends for supper. I had a great time. Somehow, while discussing Ramadan, multiculturalism and the pros/cons of accommodating vs assimilating vs integrating minorities into society, CAD vs Southern French weather, Trump, kizomba, sleep patterns, work, hair styling, annoying neighbors, I found myself on a rant about how Eminem is the greatest rapper of all time. Yes, Kendrick Lamar is an artiste, but Eminem! Eminem is just in a different class. True, he does not speak to the struggle and plight of a specific demographic; rather, he owns the individuality of his emotions, which can broaden his audience because emotions are universal and do not depend on specific circumstances. His lyrics are a form of vulnerability, and while he can be ugly, shocking, so angry and violent, his honesty is refreshing and is what allows his auditors to relate so strongly to him. His musicality is not lesser than Kendrick’s and… and somewhere after the 5th minute of my monologue, I noticed a blank look around the table.

Tentatively, I asked… y’all DO know Eminem, right? Oui, bien sûr. M&Ms. No. Eminem, bro, the rapper. You guys know who he is, in France, right?! Oui, we call him M&Ms here. M&Ms… as in the candy? Oui.

FroMan continued, “He’s the dude that sang, I’m Slim Shady yes I’m the real Shady all you other Slim Shadies are just imitating…” No. NON. Arrête. STOP IT. THAT is what you associate with Eminem? Not Rap God, where he raps 1560 words within 6:04 minutes, averaging 4.28 words per second? Not “mom’s spaghetti”, the lyric that spawned some of the most ludicrous memes ever, and is the reason why he won an Oscar? Not Love the Way You Lie, a song so powerful that even though radios overplayed it more than Despacito, it never got ruined and was a catalyst in lessening the taboo around domestic abuse, bringing that important topic out into the open?  Not any of his early underground freestyle rapping? Not that he is the only person in the world that can rhyme “orange” with “porridge”? Like seriously, watch this:

Y’all. Eminem is a wordsmith. A modern day poet. A genius.

FroMan listened to my outraged exclamations in silence for several seconds. Possibly a full minute.

Tu réalises qu’il rap en anglais, oui? On ne comprend pas ce qu’il dit.

You do realize he raps in English, yes? We don’t understand what he’s saying.

So, I asked, how do you distinguish good music from bad? You guys are French! The epitome of good taste! If you don’t understand the lyrics, what do you do? Just listen to the beat, the groove and the melody? WAIT, YOU GUYS DON’T THINK JUSTIN BIEBER IS GOOD MUSIC, DO YOU?! “En fait, il n’est vraiment pas si pire, le petit Bieber. Son album est très propre./ Actually, he really isn’t that bad, that little Bieberito. His album is quite on point.”

OMG.

OH MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM GEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

I cannot live in a world where Eminem is less appreciated than Bieber.

It occurred to me to suggest FroMan use Google Translate, much like I did to understand how ridiculously over-the-top kizomba lyrics can be (for a prime example,  check out this music video of one of my favourite songs, Vai by Calema. Stirring music, heartbreak, but whyyyyyyyy must he flop about like a goldfish in a puddle of mud? That won’t make her come back to you, bro, and significantly decreases your odds of landing yourself a rebound chick.) But Google’s habit of mildly inaccurate translations (“Pinch me now, yes/ Good afternoon, no/ You are very crazy/ Kiss me in the mouth“) can’t do justice to Eminem’s wordplay. The site Genius is the way to go… but even so, Eminem’s greatness is rather dependent on one’s fluency in English.

How sad. How very sad. FroMan’s life, and that of most of the world’s population, is incomplete.

#noiamnotbeingadramaqueenATM

#Eminemisbae

#andthisiswhytravelisimportant #myhorizonsjustgotexpandedAF

 

My street cred: I am so smrt

I woke up with a bad headache, which progressively worsened throughout the day. A hangover, really?! I didn’t drink THAT much last night. Some beer with supper, a glass of wine at my friend’s bday and a splash of delightful 15 year Guyanese rum. Must be the rum. Those bastards. I launched the emergency recovery procedures – a hangover on Monday is pretty shameful, gotta be productive, yo! I hydrated myself. Ate greasy, carby food. By 3pm, I’d maxed out my Advil consumption for the day.

I was really perplexed by this hangover sitch. Could it be old age? My bday is in 2 months and 10 days, one year closer to becoming a senior citizen. At one of my many bathroom breaks, the consequence of my diligent hydration policy, I noticed a smudge under my chin. Tried to rub it away, except it wouldn’t fade.

And that is when I understood. Not a hangover. No.

A mild concussion.


I went to the gym on Saturday. First time since March 2nd. Such a happy reunion with Coach and my crew. We skipped happily about in a circle, holding hands, in blissful companionship. Except really, we did burpees and bear walks, and Coach laughed at all our swearing and sweaty misery. Same thing.

During the warm-up set for our work-out of jerks (not the male variety; the lift), I boasted how 65lbs was too light a weight, “I’ve been gone for 5 weeks and look at that: no loss in strength. I’m AWESOME. I’m an AMAZON. BEAST MODE ON!!!!” And immediately rammed the barbell straight up into my chin, full-speed at max acceleration. I saw stars, felt my brain bounce back and forth in my skull and dropped the bar.

Coach, unperturbed, watched me and asked me kindly to refrain from killing myself on my first day back, “10 years I’ve owned this gym. Not one death. Please, Vanilla, brain-damage only, that’s to be expected in a boxing gym. But I’d rather not find out what my insurance policy covers with regards to client self-inflicted loss of life.”

I finished the workout, despite my swollen jaw, and the red bruise under my chin. Complained of a headache, like the ones I used to get after sparring.

I drank the whole weekend.

Spent all day today staring at a computer screen.

At no point did I connect the dots, and realize this was worse than getting a clean, brutal uppercut to the jaw, and with my history of (mild) boxing concussions, my grey matter is rather sensitive to getting bruised. Instead I did 100% of the things doctors tell you not to do when concussed. Woohoo!!! Brain damage for the win!!!!

Part of me is relieved that I am not allergic to delicious Guyanese rum. That would have been a real tragedy.


I tried to take a selfie, for the blog, to prove the extent of the jaw bruise (it has spread in size since Sat. In the next 48 hours, it will develop a charming yellow hue, sexy zombie-style). I failed. So I slapped on a filter to my pic, and behold, my artistic failed selfie:

Kim Kardashian would be so impressed with my selfie skills, I just know it. DUCK FACE!!!!

FYI – I’ve a history of breaking parts of my body:

Working through the Beaut legacy

New year, new me.


Beaut‘s status: beautiful guy with ok rhythm in dance class who is good for a laugh. I’ve unfollowed him on Facebook, but he’ll tag me in things that he thinks I’ll enjoy, and I will check in to see pics of his adorable little girl. We occasionally text. His penis is never ever coming near my vagina again. I don’t initiate any activities or hangout times: having previously over-invested in this whatevertionship, salvaging this friendship ain’t my burden. I’ve a busy life to live.

My feelings: Some sadness. Some nostalgia and remnants of affection. He is as fucked up as they come, but he remains good people. He is a badly abused puppy that bites the hand that tries to pet it. Cute and heartbreaking, but I’m tired of having bite marks and wondering if imma wake up with rabies one day. I’ve stopped petting him.

My feelings part 2: Given Beaut’s history (he has a tendency of women snapping and going full-blown psycho. Not the cute “imma stalk you on instagram” pyscho, but the “you should probably call the cops on me” psycho) I’m a little nervous about Main Girl. Around the time of peniscation, she announced on Fbk her intention of attending a kuduro class. When I freaked out, “hell nah – kuduro is MY joy, I ain’t gonna smile and hold your hand, pretending to be one happy incentuous family. You are not welcome here”, she innocently wondered about my reaction since, as per my blog post, it was all over between me and Beaut. She convinced Beaut that by writing To be or not be a Queen B, I meant to do her physical harm – Beaut called me in a hysterical rage, and said some vicious things I’ll never forget. In any Fbk post he tags me in, she leaves a comment highlighting how special their relationship is. Recently, she has started a blog, in the same vein as mine. True, writing is not something I own; it has brought me joy and self-awareness, and I theoretically wish that upon everyone. However… Does she so need to piss on her territory that despite my absence from Beaut’s top girls on speed-dial, she must attempt to eradicate any memory of what made me unique by taking up my hobby, blogging? She has yet to realize that talent can’t be imitated. #pettyAF #idonotfollowherblog


Having turned away from Beaut & Main Girl’s toxic shit, I’m left with myself. Blank slate. New year, new me. I alone bear the responsibility of building the life of happiness I desire for myself. But the Beaut legacy lives on inside me: I’m different now.

I’m cynical.

I’ve met a few men since Beaut. During my December trip to Paris and Madrid, one guy in particular grabbed my attention. Sassy conversation, plenty of alcohol, sexy surroundings, lowered inhibitions. We had fun. Eurodude asked for my contact info, I gave it, and we parted on the most pleasant terms imaginable.

48 hours later, it dawned on me. Eurodude hadn’t added me on social media, despite me providing him with a link to a picture on my IG profile. He must be married. I spent an hour stalking him on social media. While not conclusive, I’m confident in my assessment. Beaut legacy part 1: my main reaction was one of irritation for not having suspected earlier. Beaut legacy part 2: Eurodude’s conscience ain’t my problem. I had fun, and wouldn’t mind seeing him again, should we ever wind up in the same continent again. #whereismymoralcompass

Eurodude has emailed me a handful of times since that trip. Pre-Beaut Vanilla smiles when she sees his name in her inbox: clearly the connection was legit, since he stands to gain nothing by emailing me – we live on different sides of the pond, let’s enjoy our fun correspondence. Beaut legacy kicks in and whispers that Eurodude is emailing me to boost his male ego and keep me interested, such that if he should ever come to Montreal, or I be in Europe, he wouldn’t have to work hard to get into my pants.

Remember flower dude? He started flirting with me again when he realized Beaut was out of the picture. Only for me to realize he’d forgotten to tell me about his new Main Girl.

There isn’t a guy who talks to me that I don’t now coolly assess what his angle must be.

I reject the concept of vulnerability

Recently, I was having supper with an older guy, who remarked there comes a moment in each of our conversations where he hits a wall, and I shut him out. I’m an open book up until the point where I’m not and no matter how hard or carefully he tries to regain my trust, I remain withdrawn. Sympathetically, he explained that with him, it was either vulnerability or nothing. So far, I’ve chosen nothing – with regret, because he is fascinating and fun. But he is one that can burn me, so hell nah, bro.

It occurs to me that in setting my sights on Paris within 2 years, I am providing myself with the perfect excuse to avoid a relationship with anyone: nobody will distract me from my Dream. It happens to be mighty convenient that in so doing, I’m avoiding vulnerability like a champ.


New year, new me.

I wish I liked the new me a bit more. Not sure how to work through this Beaut legacy, but I’ll find a way. 2017 is the year my joy will shine brightly: I will not allow anything to dim it.

Aujourd’hui, je me choisis. Je choisis de cultiver ouvertement mon bonheur au sein de gens qui partagent mon désir d’avancer. Je choisis de reconnaître la vie et les gens pour ce qu’ils sont: allègres, beaux, multicolores. Du moins, c’est ce que je choisis de voir. La veuve noire

The art of photobombing

Exhibit A

This pic was taken a month ago. That would be me and Nene, at the bar, trying to take a pic celebrating our graceful handling of the hilarious 5 types of cereal moment, earlier that evening. Photobombed by alleged Chair Thrower dude. #brilliant

Exhibit B

This pic was taken last night. That would be me and Nene and KizBoxer, trying to take a pic to show off our sexy swagalicious good looks. Oh and hey! Chair Thrower photobombing like a pro.

Chair Thrower had forewarned me that he’d wear a black shirt for the sole purpose of improving his odds of photobombing me.

#geniustakesallforms #soulofanartist #dammit #ilaughedandsworeoutloudalot


Well. I forgot this still happened. Part II.

Yesterday I had another date with Young Boy (YB). You can read Part I here: it gives a little context about my mindset going into said date. A low-key affair, as we were both burnt from a long week at work. I like low-key dates because they often result in good conversations; useful in the getting-to-know-one-another stage, regardless of where that stage is headed (dating, naked gymnastics, friend zone).

Convo flowed freely, possibly because we have very different lifestyles and tastes. Even interests that we share, we approach from very different perspectives. For example, I exercise primarily because I need to remain mentally and emotionally stable: my appearance is bonus. For the longest time, despite exercising 4-6 times a week, I was rather thick (80+kilos), because of my emotional eating. Sure, that self-destructive habit made me ashamed, but thanks to my former therapist, I still felt some pride in investing the necessary time to take care of my brain and happiness. YB exercises because he feels it is a duty to remain healthy: anyone who lets him/herself go is lazy and signals to the world that they don’t respect themselves and don’t mind being a drain on society by clogging up the healthcare system with avoidable health issues. OYE. On so many levels. Yes, agreed that being overweight is linked to avoidable health issues. No, disagreed that it is a matter of laziness and lack of self-respect: those might be factors, but adulting is fucking hard, and the emotional and mental scars of life often translate into bad eating habits. Also? Life is a balancing act of conflicting priorities. To surmise a person’s whole character from their appearance?! OYE. Yet… I am not surprised. Many people share his point of view – hence my concern with maintaining my newfound #skinnybitch and #bangingbod status.

We started comparing Instagram profiles, and sharing the backstories of some of our favorite pics. I showed him a pic of me and Coach, after a particularly good, sweaty booté workout at the gym – seemed like a good choice, especially after our convo about exercising.

That’s one big black guy. How much does he bench/squat? Cute pic. Wait, you don’t fool around with black guys, do you? You DO?! Oh.” [Accompanied by a slightly nonplussed look.]

Oh, indeed.

Remember how my emotions are overwhelming, I can’t always properly identify what I am feeling, and as a result I have slightly delayed reactions? I had NO PROBLEM identifying my anger, and the only difficulty I had was biting back the impulse to reply,

Yeah, going back has been tough, you’re my trial run, white boy, and honestly, I don’t know that I am ready to make the switch back. You haven’t sold me on the concept.

SO ANGRY. Because the question didn’t revolve around me fooling around with guys. No. Specifically, it was concerned with black guys. My willingness to expose my body to black guys merits judgment. What, boy, bothers you so much about the black part of the guys I have fooled around with? Lets break down some of the most common aspects of their reputation:

  • big dicks: so is this a sizing issue, boy? Worried you can’t measure up? That I have been stretched out and am a loosey goosey?
  • into dirtier, nastier sex: well, for someone who has boasted about having a broad range of naked gymnastics interests, surely my possible exposure to similar concepts (7.5!!) can’t bother you, can it? Or are you worried I’ll call your bluff?
  • aren’t legendary for their monogamy: worried that I might be crawling with diseases? Dunno if you understand how safe sex works, but it isn’t related to the moral code of the person you bang. It is only related to whether or not the dude wears a raincoat. Worried that means that I might not be the greatest at the whole concept of monogamy? Because obvi my character is influenced by sexual osmosis. I cannot maintain my own moral compass if there is a penis around.
  • can actually cook and dance: nothing to be said, really.
  • are BLACK.

Its the last one that bothers me. Because while I am sure the other items probably were part of his reaction, its the BLACK part that really was the sticking point. So shocking that a white girl like me might actually view black males as humans worthy of my attention, time and occasionally body… the same as I do white boys. Or Arab boys (only because I find the possibility of being blown up during sex to be extremely exciting, duh). Or any other male that is alive, taller than me and funny.

Unconscious racism. Soooooooooo sexy.

There won’t be a part III.

Where I prove that I am still quite Vanilla

Lately, I’ve been feeling less Vanilla thanks to all the interesting experiences I’ve had with Coach & my boxing crew (7.5!) and my dating trainwrecks. That implied a certain loss of innocence which is rarely a good thing. Long gone are the days where my biggest concern was whether or not I’d be respecting the half-your-age-plus-seven rule with whatever guy I’d make out with when clubbing with Dynamo and the boys. [Fun story: almost 6.5 years ago, recently single, I was out on the town and saw this be-au-ti-ful athletic boy at the bar. I was 25 – a true cougar, so I thought. I flirtily asked him his age: 20. Pffffft, I thought, no way: his muscular development was such that he must at LEAST be 23-24. Why he’d understate his age remains a mystery, to this day. Fast forward the evening, and I began a torrid makeout session with him, in a darkly lit corner of the bar, because #matureandclassy. Despite his excellent kissing skills – further proof that he must be older than 20 – a nagging doubt about his age persisted in my brain, distracting me from the activity at hand. So I asked him for ID. A little bemused, he showed me his driver’s license which clearly showed that he was born in… 1990. Aka, many years after me. Aka, the next decade after me. In shock, I sat down, gave him back his ID, and announced I was unable to continue kissing him. Poor guy tried so hard to convince me, but the damage had been done. 1990. Child labor!]


Last weekend, I was out with Superwoman. Context: Superwoman counts amongst her close friends many big players in the Montreal, and even international, nightlife DJ scene. I have no interest in this scene. Over the years, her friends have become my friends that I see socially at house parties and gatherings; I frankly do not care how big/small of players they are, other than a general goodwill that they may achieve whatever professional goals and success they set out for themselves. At last weekend’s event, 2 such DJs were playing, and several other key figures from the scene were present (using words like “the scene” makes me laugh. I try apply it into an accounting context. “That partner is a big player in the aeronautical manufacturing scene. A big player!” Or better yet, “The CFO of my company is really starting to be a key figure in the carpet and flooring surfaces scene.” Totally works.) During the event, I flirted with all the guys because flirting is a lot of fun, although one of the DJs did catch my eye, and I his.

After the event finished, at 3:30am, I was ready to go home. But nooooooooo! Of one Superwoman’s DJ friends invited us over to his place to continue hanging out. I was a little dismayed. 3:30am is definitely after my bedtime. Superwoman told me to not be a little bitch: to decline the invitation would be impolite. I decided that I could suck it up for 45 minutes, long enough to not be rude, but short enough that I could be in bed before 6am. Off we went. I patted myself on the back: for the first time in my life, I was participating in a after-party, however small. #wildVanilla

At said DJ’s place, I didn’t drink: I’d long since reached the happy tipsy state that I enjoy, and had no interest in consuming more alcohol if my end goal was to sleep within the next 60 minutes. #practicalmoderateVanilla. Cute DJ was also present, still tipsily flirting with me, in front of everybody, which made me very uncomfortable: I hate having my business be entertainment fodder/gossip for others. One of Superwoman’s friends decided to intervene. He took Cute DJ aside, “Bro, you gotta close this deal! She’s a good girl! She doesn’t party much, she doesn’t do drugs, doesn’t drink too much. A good girl. Has a real job, is serious, obviously pretty, and her head screwed on straight. No drama with that girl. And she doesn’t sleep with ANYBODY! You won’t find many other good girls like her, who are also fun! Go for it!” Because, you know, nothing is sexier than a sober nerd with cobwebs in her vagina.

35 minutes into my 45 minute countdown (which was surprisingly fun, despite my exhaustion and lack of alcohol), one of the guests disappeared for 5 minutes. When he reappeared, he was distinctly more animated and talkative than before. I concluded that he had done cocaine. I had many thoughts:

As I got up to leave, Superwoman’s interventionist friend shook his head despondently at me, pointing at Cute DJ, “Vanilla, you disappoint me. I was sure you would close the deal.” Yeah, no, did I mention I don’t like being gossiped about?


So there you have it. If I was worried about becoming less Vanilla, last weekend put everything in perspective. No drugs, no hookups, no drunken fails, just staying up past my bedtime and some cobwebs. #badassVanilla