Saturday, 25 May 2019

Jeans, boots, tattoos... Oh my!

Thursday was my last day working for a particular company and I have now closed that chapter in my life. It was an office job and NOT a client-facing one yet the dress-code composed of two pages of what to wear and what not to wear, including mention of shoe choices, piercings and tattoos.

Ever since my school days I have been airing my views about how institutional dress codes impose on people a uniformity that goes against a person’s personality and individuality. I must have been only some thirteen years old when I first started my active protestation of such a ridiculous matter. For truly, how in the world does wearing jeans affect one’s mental faculties and productivity level?

As I previously mentioned, this week was my last on a job so I made it a point to try out an experiment. I turned up for work always wearing decent clothes that look cool, well put-together and stylish whilst bringing out my personality. The one thing they were not was Office-Wear.

I rarely ever wore a suit to work in the past few years, nor do I usually wear what are called office trousers, mostly because I find it pretty difficult to buy any in the appropriate size. However I do consider office rules even whilst hating them so this was the first week I ever turned up in a very casual skirt or jeans.

The offending pair of jeans!
Considering that my choice of skirt for the Monday was on the short side, attention-seeking for its pattern and even likely to be considered way casual, it seemed to bother no one. So you can imagine my surprise when on the Tuesday I wore normal blue NOT FADED and NOT TORN OR FRAYED cropped denim jeans and the fact was pointed out to me by the HR department. My question of “Why would it matter?” was answered solely by the phrase “It says so in the dress code.” How intelligent an answer that was to my honest puzzlement about the situation is a mystery.

All week, my work DID NOT suffer in any way for the lack of ‘professional’ sartorial choices. So seriously, when are businesses going to wake up to the real world and acknowledge that workers are more useful for their skills than their ability to follow policies related to whether their choice of trousers makes the cut?

Each morning I took a picture of my experimental outfit to share with you here below. As you can see, nothing screams ‘indecency’ or could in any way prove problematic to my workmates. In fact, even though I do not yet have any tattoos on me, I would not even consider showing a tattoo as offending material for those around me?

This reminds me of a particular incident I faced last year whilst looking for a new home. Malta has become full of hungry real estate agents that pull potential clients off their competition’s mouths to be the first to show them the same measly number of buildings that are within most people’s budgets. I have faced annoying agents, others who were outright rude to me and even ones that were unable to grasp the simple basics of my requirements before thrusting any properties within my budget in front of my face.

Which is how one agent stood out, firstly because when I met him I noticed he had a big tattoo that was not at all hidden and later through his professionally on the job. He turned out to be by far one of the best two agents I had the pleasure to have help me find my home. So truly, how would hiding the tattoo make him better at the job? Or the others any more competent for making less casual dress choices? Attributing a person’s professional skill on the job to their choice of attire is like expecting every black cat owner to turn out to be a witch.

NB - Please note I have absolutely nothing against witches, but one could have a black cat for a pet and not be witchy at all! 🙀🙀🙀



Saturday, 18 May 2019

Loving Through Lies, Living In Denial

Yesterday I went to the cinema to watch Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. It is a biographical account of American serial killer and necrophile Ted Bundy (starring Zac Efron). There has been at least one previous representation of this story made for the screen, but this time it puts his long-time girlfriend Liz (played by Lily Collins) as a protagonist and we follow the tale as though through her empathic viewpoint which also clearly highlights his narcissistic behaviour towards her.

I’m not giving anything away by saying that Liz was at first oblivious to his crimes and later in denial of them. Manipulating her through his ‘caring ways’ as well as with his good looks, attention and even lies, Ted kept her under his spell for many long years.

Lily Collins is a superb actress as well as one who did research for this part. In fact, she even met up with the real Liz to get a first hand account of what it was like to be Ted’s girlfriend and what exactly she lived through when Ted was still alive.

The film struck a chord with me for a totally different reason to Ted’s atrocities. Rather, I saw myself in Liz, not as the partner of a conscienceless killer but as the woman in love with a man, come what may.

They say love is blind. Many lovestruck people even go to desperate lengths to get their ex back. Some never go on to experience love again after what seems to them to be the love story of their life. (This is a point I discussed in my review of Any Human Heart which you may read here: https://vintagehew.blogspot.com/2018/03/any-human-heart-film-series-2010.html)

Liz fits the bill of a woman who experiences an unconditional love, never giving up the hope (even if this is partly instigated by Bundy himself in his phone calls) and feeling the pain throughout the multiple arrests, escapes, lawyer strategies, media coverage and ultimate trial. It takes till after Jerry softly infiltrate her life and slowly, even at his own expense, tries to put her broken parts back together, for her to start seeing outside of the veil of compassion she’d created through which to view the one big love of her life.

Some will argue she was a fool and that no grown woman in her right mind would tolerate Bundy’s insistent phonecalls and lies. Yet I am sure in her place, few would differ in their treatment of him. After all, love is really sometimes very very blind.

I am an eighties baby and one of the songs I remember most widely played in my early teens was Madonna’s Frozen. Totally unrelated to Disney’s later animated film of the same name, the song haunted me for its lyrics which, true to the singer’s style, clearly highlight human emotions.

“You only see what your eyes want to see”. Bang. Her very first line. Delivered delicately in Madonna's melodious voice to a background music that I would describe more classic than pop. We all do that don’t we? In Maltese we have a saying that translates to “You hear what you want” and well that is another facet of the same very human problem isn’t it?

Liz heard Ted’s lies and believed them because she wanted them to be true. We never question the person we truly love, simply because we want him/her to be perfect. Liz saw the desire in his eyes and never questioned why his look was so passionate till years later, when she could finally let her mind see him in a new light for what he really was. My guess is that even then, after she had unravelled and broken all the cobwebs he had slowly spun around her lucid mind and soft heart, she still loved him and wanted reality to be very different.

Liz’s case was among the most disturbing situations any person could find themselves in. Yet in our own way, in our maybe simpler and/or less dangerous life, we all see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. That is why it is very important to use perception to always make the best out of a situation but also preferably, to try to attune to what is truly there. For only when we remove the fog and view pain, lies and deceit for what they are and take a stand to move away from them, do we start truly loving ourselves and becoming a better person with a better life.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Alternate Realities In Our Every Day

I keep mentioning this idea of choice and result. The first time was back in 2017, when following a bad break-up I tried to make sense of what is within, and what is outside of, our control. I questioned a pre-defined Destiny and yet toyed with the idea that sometimes other people's choices influence our life too. It was a heart-breaking post to write back then and even re-reading it now makes me re-live that sadness all over again. However the post itself ends on a very positive note, with my decision to control my own future and believe in the ability to change Destiny, as it were. The article itself may be read here: The Chain Reaction.

This idea is very much in keeping with my musings of the past weeks, where I suggested that should one tiny detail differ in our day, it might have a ripple effect causing a totally different life for us. I mention in The Chain Reaction how my friend was late meeting me for coffee. It was only for that reason that I was swiping photos left on a dating app on my phone, out of boredom, when a guy came to speak to me online and literally changed my life in so many ways. He is even the muse behind or sometimes catalyst of, many more of my articles and blog posts, so he might have slightly changed my professional career too in a way! Can you see how every tiny detail changes something in turn?

Authors Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler wrote a teen novel that centres around this very theme of changing your reality, one little movement at a time. Calling it The Future Of Us, they toyed with the idea that the two protagonists and friends - Emma and Josh - might, horror of horrors, not still be Facebook friends in the future! Gosh, how did that happen now?! It is a hilarious account of two youngsters trying to manipulate what happens next and learning a whole lot about life in the process.

What would have happened had I not booked that flight ticket just last month? Who knows? The point is, I did. (You may read more about that here: Synchronicities.) What would have happened had I gone off to live in London back in 2005 and studied for a BA in English as originally planned, instead of finding a good position in a financial company and letting that set the tone for my paid employment for the next fourteen years? Who knows? Point is, I didn't go live in London at the time and chose to stay on the island.

This post has reminded me of the adventure books from when I was young that would ask you to make choices for the character. According to your choice progression, you were always led to another page to read another bit of the story, which would differ should you choose an alternate option for the characters. I have to admit, I was always more interested in the technicality of how those books were written and put together, rather than actually reading my choice story from start to end. As an author, the dynamics of a book fascinate me.

Which reminds me of yet another book that somehow ties into this whole argument about choosing our progression and leaving the alternatives behind. A little over a year ago, I reviewed The Girl Before for online magazine www.eve.com.mt. In doing some research about the novel before writing out my review, I read an interview with the writer, JP Delaney (a pseudonym for Tony Strong). In it, the author admitted to writing eighteen endings for the book before choosing the most appropriate one. Character Jane could very well have faced any of eighteen endings and she is not even real!

We might not be characters who've survived an elaborately planned murder, and yet we make choices every second of our day, each of which dictates our immediate future. So the next time you find yourself at any crossroad, debating on whether to catch that flight or remain with your feet firmly on the ground, ask yourself which of your immediate alternate realities would you be willing to choose?