There are many angles to Vienna… 🙂
From my point of view, each and every new place I visit is a personal achievement, every new piece of foreign culture I get a chance to discover is a small victory, something to keep me going while tilting at those windmills embodied by quotidian problems, stress and routine 🙂 .
This little guy’s afternoon nap was spoiled by a horde of curious tourists, impatient to meet him and the beautiful park where he summers. What can I say, being a star isn’t always a walk in the park… This time however… smile for the camera 🙂
It’s climbing back on top that’s always the challenge 🙂 …
A writer mentioned somewhere, sometime, how deeply touched he was by those mornings when the sea has no sky. So many ways to interpret such a thought…
Earlier this week I took advantage of what may very well have been the last beautiful days this autumn and I enjoyed the warm sun and light breeze while strolling on the beach. The sea regaled me with surprisingly bright shades of blue, especially for this time of year. Yes, I would miss those calming, reassuring seaside blues and the salty air if I ever had to move…
For this photo challenge, show us what “refraction” means to you. It could be an image taken in a reflective surface, it could be light bent from behind an object, or it could mean remedial math homework: the choice is completely up to you.
Lights and shadows always enhance the fascinating experience of a concert 🙂 .
I wasn’t completely sure what it was until it started to move. That was also when I noticed the man whose pedaling transformed the unusual looking contraption into an old-fashioned merry-go-round – does he not look like a character from a fairytale? I was amazed and happy to see the children so excited about this somewhat anachronistic ride. So they can enjoy something else but the wonders of technology, as long as they are provided with such a source of fun… However, I couldn’t help channeling the evil witch in Hansel and Gretel for a second 🙂 … And those of you who ever tried to have a pleasant dinner in a nice, romantic restaurant while a few children running amok were disturbing everybody but their parents, will probably understand what I mean. For a moment, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have one of these right next to the coat check?…”
For this challenge, share an image of a sign: it can be a sign near your home — a comforting sight after a long journey — a sign that doubles as art, or other types of signs that hold meaning for you.
A sign of national pride and tradition – the changing of the guard in Athens and Prague. As you can see, I’ve decided not to take this one ad litteram.
What nocturnal photos do you like taking? Whether it’s a starry sky, a street lamp, or the shadows cast by your cat, share them with us. Your shot can be outdoors or indoors, blurry or crisp, overexposed or ominously dark. As every owl (and night owl) knows, nighttime is when the real action starts.
I just discovered I have a surprising number of night photos – one worse than the other 🙂 . But this one appealed to me more than the rest, in spite of the fact that it was taken with what was – judging by today’s standards – quite a rudimentary phone. Maybe it’s the sentimental value it holds…
I can’t help wondering if anything we build today might have the potential to survive over a thousand years…
We had the time of our lives and it won’t end here:-) . After all, we made it this far when nobody thought we would. Happy Anniversary, my dear one!
Paying respects to the dead… Paying respects to history… Appreciating life even more!
Ever since I was a child, I was particularly fond of heights. In fact, having the chance to take in the scenery from the top of a tall building or floating in the clouds has always been a treat for me. This is why I really need to focus on trying to be understanding when it comes to a good friend of mine who cringes at the mere sight of such photos. For him, travelling by plane or even a ride in a cable car are life-threatening adventures. But I still think everything looks nicer seen from above 🙂 .
I mentioned earlier this year that I would like to visit Vienna again, perhaps even have some more of that great apple strudel I tried at Schonbrunn Palace. Without realizing it, that was the opening line in a very enjoyable dialogue on this topic, as somebody dear to me had paid attention to those slightly melancholic words. So you’d like to see Vienna again, he said to me a few days later. I took the spoiled brat approach and replied, I’d rather go to Paris first, if we’re to revisit places… I though the conversation died then and there, but somebody needs to have the last word every time, so in June I was very pleasantly surprised with a long weekend in Vienna. What can I say… given how nice our little getaway was, I think I can live with occasionally not having the last word 🙂 And the strudel was as great as I remembered it. One thing had changed though – the flowers in the Palace gardens were now different, a bittersweet reminder of the passage of time, whispering to me that spring and summer are never alike and years will leave a mark on anything and everything.
I took a look at some of the pictures I’ve taken in various places by the sea and it’s amazing how many images of frayed leaves managed to sneak in, often unnoticed. They’re nice, distinctive marks, reminiscent of those worm, sunny times. 🙂
These may not be the greatest pictures I’ve ever taken, but capturing those moments was so much fun! 🙂
Some sights just make you think of velvet and silk, don’t they? 🙂
For years I wanted to see Prague. When I finally got the chance to visit this intriguing capital, it definitely lived up to my expectations; zigzagging on the intricate paths of the castle, breathing in the Kafkaesque atmosphere was indeed a dream come true.
It happens every day, we all do it… We all judge the book by the cover – be it in a figurative or literal manner – at least on some occasions. But this highly disapproved habit does sometimes yield constructive results. I’m thinking of changing the book cover, so if you have a moment, please focus all your judgemental energy and tell me what you think. If you have already read some of the fragments, choose the one you think is the most suitable. If not, you can pick the one you find most appealing.
Bosphorus and Istanbul – between worlds, between continents, between water and clouds…
I found the Cistern in Istanbul to be a very intriguing type of room. Visiting it a few years ago was certainly interesting 🙂
Village Teacher was a surprisingly pleasant break from the books which generally fall into our hands these days. In fact, I could say it’s reminiscent of literature from another time and not only because the action takes place at the end of the 19th century in a politically torn, myth laden Vietnam, but due to the fact it creates an atmosphere often similar to that of an epic poem.
“The footprints never overlapped or touched one another, but there was no doubt that they were walking close together and going forward in the same general direction. They turned around once more and resumed their walk.”
The reader can guess early on how the story is going to end, but that doesn’t detract from the desire to follow the journey of those extraordinary main characters, who never betray their moral values, belief systems and feelings. Teacher Tam and Giang are the protagonists of a delicate, innocent, yet profound love story bringing together two worlds, two cultures, two completely different lifestyles. He is a poor, but erudite, honest, incorruptible village teacher, who values tradition, but keeps an open mind and is able to admit and accept progress, both when it comes to education and to mentality. She is the daughter of a highly influent, well-off, interracial family in the capital, encompassing the best traits of the two nations, French and Vietnamese. So you just know the adventure they have to survive in order to be together is going to be an interesting, entrancing one! As expected, they do manage to overcome social and political intrigues, selfishness and malevolence of their enemies. Their intelligence, selflessness and above all, their unconditional love both for each other and for others predicate their actions and lead them to a life together, in the spirit of their destiny.
Are such characters believable in the real world? Perhaps not, but I chose to see Teacher Tam and Giang as the embodiment of hope and dreams, the voices of aspiration for a better world. The task of establishing a connection with reality falls on the historical facts punctuating the love story, a task carried out in a clear, captivating fashion. Thus even a reader with few notions regarding Vietnamese history (such as I was) finds it easy to create a strong context and a cultural background, a veridical stage where the characters can perform. Some of the obstacles the protagonists face – such as prejudice, religious oppression and discrimination, gender bias – are also some of the plagues tormenting modern society, our own lives. Perhaps I’m not even too far from the truth if I say that the intertwinement of Vietnamese history and culture creates and entity to be metaphorically viewed as a third protagonist of the book, that’s how much it affects the lives of Giang and Tam, often representing a challenging obstacle for the two young lovers from different worlds.
For me, reading a book has often been an escape from my own reality. And it is relaxing and gratifying to occasionally find escape in a world built on actual history, but populated with exceptional individuals, where the heroes eventually defeat the villains, even when they have to undergo their own personal dramas and emotional growth. Like I said, this book reminds me of another time – that of childhood and innocence, when everything was possible and the good always prevailed in every story. And the fact that the skeptical adult anchored in reality can grasp to the well-documented cultural and historical facts, thus learning something new and interesting, ads exactly the right twist to this exotic story, as far as I am concerned. So it certainly was time well spent accompanying Teacher Tam on the path to achieving his destiny.
This is where you can connect with the author, discover his world and find out more about the book:
Forget Sangria and Paella! The first thing to do in Barcelona – see at least some of Gaudi’s works of art!
There are some rare moments when you feel on top of the world, when you feel the weight lift off your shoulders – suddenly, life becomes enjoyable and happiness takes over you as you forget all worries, fears and threats.
As you may have gathered, I find the sea to have a calming effect on me; travelling, seeing new places, is also something I thoroughly enjoy whenever I have the chance; and I never let my high heels to get in the way of climbing all those challenging heights. So when these three aspects merge, I can virtually say I’m on top of the world – from so many points of view…
The second surprise the Easter Bunny had in store for me was the Sunshine Award. It was Linda that helped the Easter Bunny with this one. Thank you for your nomination, Linda! Visiting your blog is always a pleasant experience and your photos are lovely: http://kerlundphoto.se/
Those who have been nominated and decide to accept the award have to thank the person who nominated them (1), share ten things about themselves (2), and nominate ten other blogs they consider worthy of this honour. These are the rules, from what I can understand.
Here are ten things about me (I know I may have mentioned some of them before, but I am in a hurry today, I apologize):
1. I love travelling and I don’t think I will ever get to visit all the places I want to see.
2. I cannot survive without coffee; chocolate comes second, right after coffee.
3. I’d rather work ‘till late in the night than wake up early in the morning.
4. Objectively speaking, I have too many shoes; but I still don’t trust this ‘objective’ voice, as I’m pretty sure I don’t have enough.
5. Literature has always played an important part in my life.
6. I’m too stubborn for my own good.
7. I find cooking to be relaxing, unless somebody badgers me into doing it.
8. I love the sea, but I hate swimming.
9. I never give money to beggars, but I do give them food.
10. I cannot stand narrow-minded people.
These are only ten of the many beautiful blogs that deserve this award:
Once more, thank you, Linda! And I hope all of you enjoy your award and pass it on to other bloggers you appreciate.
Update – May 30th 2015
I need to take a moment to thank yet another wonderful blogger for nominating me for the Liebster Award. Thank you, Laura! Stop by http://laurathelloyd.com/ and take a look at what she has to share with the world!
Liebster Award Update – April 22nd
I have to add another thank you note, as I just got nominated for the Liebster Award again. Thank you, http://searandyellowleaf.wordpress.com/ , I appreciate it and I wish I had the time to write a separate post on this occasion! She and her beautiful blog have just won the award and they certainly deserve it, so pay her a visit! 🙂
The Easter Bunny has arrived early this year and he has left me two amazing surprises amongst all those beautifully coloured eggs: two nominations for two lovely awards! As any busy do-gooder, the Easter Bunny has trusty helpers and I would like to thank them for delivering these surprising gifts to me – in a chronological order, no favouritisms 🙂
The first pleasant surprise of the day was the Liebster Award and I would like to thank petermoulding for nominating me.
Now… there are a few rules that need taken into account when receiving such a nomination:
I. Thank the blogger who gives it.
II. Answer 11 questions he / she asks.
III. Nominate 11 more bloggers for the award.
IV. Ask these 11 bloggers 11 questions.
V. Let the bloggers know that you have nominated them.
I. The first one – thanking the person who nominated you – is common sense, as far as I’m concerned. Once more, thank you for your appreciation! It’s always a delight to stop by http://petermoulding.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/liebster-award/ and browse through all the wonderful photos and more!
II. Here are my answers to the 11 questions I’ve been asked:
1. What was the inspiration behind your blog title?
I can’t say I have such an inspired, original blog title. I wanted to keep it simple, because I started this blog as a personal challenge. What was meant to be a brief presentation of a book has evolved into something else…
2. What is your favourite book and why?
It’s not easy to choose just one book, but if I must… Franz Kafka’s The Castle has always had a special place in my heart. Kafka is a good refuge whenever the daily nonsense of life becomes too hard to bear.
3. Name the happiest moment of your life so far…
Well… that’s not an easy one, is it? I would probably have to say it was that fresh start I managed to offer myself years and years ago. I know, it’s a bit cryptic, but the question is too personal for my taste J
4. How many times have you watched your favourite movie, and what is it?
Too many times to remember. Gone with the Wind has always been my feel-good movie.
5. If you had a choice to be in a different city tomorrow, what city would it be?
Another tough choice, but I think Paris would be my answer… at least for now.
6. A day trip to a big bustling city or a walk in the countryside?
It depends on my mood. Today… it would be the city.
7. Do you have any influences, who or what are they?
There are a couple of persons I know too well and I can say I loathe, so I strive to be nothing like them.
8. If you could travel back in time, where would you want to be?
I’d like to give those roaring twenties a try, see if they’re worthy of the legendary tales they inspired.
9. Pictures taken from an old camera or a modern digital camera?
I’m not fussy about this matter; pictures are mainly memories to me, I generally like them for what they mean to me and not for their quality, so whatever sort of camera I have access to is just fine.
10. Why travel?
Why not? There’s no better way to experience and discover different cultures and people. It makes me feel alive and it’s an opportunity to constantly learn new things, both about myself and others.
11. How long did it take for you to write up this post?
I didn’t really time it, it wasn’t one fluent effort; I guess it adds up to about half an hour or so.
III. Here are my 11 nominees:
IV. 11 questions for you (I’ll try not to be too intrusive):
1. What three places describe you best?
2. There must be an author or book close to your heart; would you like to share this information with us?
3. What is you dream destination, that mysterious place you always wanted to visit?
4. Where did you spend the nicest vacation?
5. What historical period would be best suited for your personality?
6. Do you identify yourself with any artist(s), and if so, with whom?
7. What nice memory from your childhood would you like to share with us?
8. What’s the greatest satisfaction you derive from blogging?
9. What are three of the most important principles you try to observe in life?
10. Do you like to plan everything or are you a spontaneous person?
11. What do you prefer: a good book or a good movie?
I’m looking forward to reading your answers and finding out what other bloggers you nominate for this award!
Flowers will always bring a smile to a woman’s face – even when it’s only the ones she has tended to, now repaying her with their delicate, blooming beauty. 🙂
I came home to quite a pleasant surprise this afternoon: apparently somebody not only enjoyed my ramblings on various topics, but they also found that I was worthy of being nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award! Thank you, Frankie! You’re a kind soul! Incidentally, you can stop by his place anytime, he’s always hospitable, ready to share his thoughts and has a great sense of humor: http://truckerturningwrite.com/
Now… if only I had known in advance… here I am, receiving this honor and no new outfit for the occasion! The horror! Oh well… I guess I’ll have to make do with what I’ve got… at least I had my hair done this afternoon; but if my purse doesn’t match my dress, it’s all your fault, Frankie!
It seems that the protocol requires me to share 7 random facts about myself. I guess I can take care of this aspect, now that I can’t do anything more to save my outfit for this award ceremony.
1. I cannot survive without coffee (clearly it must be important, since it’s the first thing that comes to my mind…); chocolate comes second, right after coffee.
2. Objectively speaking, I have too many shoes; but I still don’t trust this ‘objective’ voice, as I’m pretty sure I don’t have enough.
3. Literature has always played an important part in my life, especially when I was a child.
4. I find cooking to be relaxing, unless somebody badgers me into doing it (i.e. my mother, whenever she visits).
5. I love the sea, but I hate swimming.
6. I never give money to beggars, but I do give them food.
7. I cannot stand narrow-minded people.
Now… this is the difficult part: choosing more nominees for the award. First of all, I’m not entirely sure how many there should be; second of all, I still haven’t managed to get used to how many talented people there are around here. But here goes, I’m closing my eyes and picking some of my favourites in no particular order:
http://psychologistmimi.com/ – I often wonder how many hours there are in her days, since she manages to do so many wonderful things;
http://dragoneystory.wordpress.com/ – his photographs are beautiful and he always cheers us up with the funny videos he
http://angloswiss-chronicles.com/ – lovely stories and photographs;
http://teddylee01.wordpress.com/ – I admire the courage it takes to share certain personal matters;
http://ceenphotography.com/ – interesting challenges and really nice photographs;
http://josephrathjen.wordpress.com/ – he is not afraid to state his opinions;
http://61musings.com/ – in case you can’t understand introverts, this is the place that clarifies everything (I hope this nomination isn’t too much of a social bother 😉 );
http://moviewriternyu.wordpress.com/ – the stories are hilarious;
http://dysfunctionalliteracy.com/ – book reviews and not only (what will The Literary Girlfriend do next?);
http://getreadingnow.org/ – a great place for book reviews.
I think I should stop here, not because these are all the great people and blogs, but simply because this award winning diva is starting to feel how exhausting her week has been. Have a nice weekend, all of you out there!
Do you think you are old? How about them? Aging only made them more attractive…
There is a certain cocktail of fear, frustration and depression that only birthday milestones can inflict on a person. Reaching any of those multiple of ten birthdays is if not a trial, at least a contradictory, controversial moment for most of us. It starts early on, when you’re a child so happy and proud to have finally achieved a double digit birthday, it’s a time when you begin to feel so big and important, you have finally become somebody who matters. In what almost seems to be a blink of an eye, ten becomes twenty – the moment you’re not in your teens anymore is a bittersweet victory, you feel like there’s finally something to back up all your claims to be treated like an adult, but the pressure which comes with having that wish granted starts to reveal itself as a constant rather than an accidental consequence. By the time you’ve reached your mid-twenties, there’s already a gnawing thought tormenting you once in a while, especially when nothing seems to go according to plan – the dreaded, end-of-life-as-you-know-it thirty is the next big step and it’s not at all as far away in the future as you might like it to be.
I am no longer ashamed to admit it, I was one of those women fearing the ominous number whenever I had the feeling time had a mind of its own and a cruel way of passing too fast, preventing me from doing all that I wanted to do. Some things are inevitable and the illusion of a disillusion disseminating birthday eventually became reality, not only a mean allusion in the back of my mind. However, having a close male friend that turned thirty the same month I did put certain things in perspective, making me break out of my selfish shell for a moment or two and actually acknowledge that this isn’t a critical time only for women. I used to think men simply ignore this milestone and women are the ones most tortured by the ticking clock. As it turned out, the men I witnessed crossing their thirties threshold took it considerably worse than the women I had a chance to see experiencing the same ordeal.
I woke up and I immediately felt worried – worried that the new decade wasn’t actually making me feel any different, depression and despair hadn’t taken over me; in fact I was feeling quite pleased with myself, the way I normally do my birthday. There was no trace of the pain, sadness or frustration I used to think would accompany this frightful day, it was just a birthday like any other; it occurred to that the introspection was meant to find fault where there wasn’t any. I switched on the TV and focused my attention on a news channel while drinking my coffee. There hadn’t been any relevant cataclysms; no nuclear war had started; no meteor was on its course to collide with the planet; no signs of any pandemic. It was clear, I realized, settling more comfortably, cup of coffee in hand: the end of the world wasn’t scheduled for that day just because I was turning thirty. And why should that happen, since even my own little personal universe was calm and safe, surprisingly unaffected by the matter? Just to make sure, I subsided to my vanity and closely inspected my face in the mirror – I hadn’t turned into a crone over night, no wrinkles were menacing to scar my visage in the near future, I could still pass for somebody in her early twenties if I was well rested, everything was the same as before. I was the same as before, not feeling thirty, far from looking thirty; the only difference was that I was actually thirty, but that suddenly stopped meaning that much, because I liked who and where I was, I had managed to come to terms with my existence and accept myself quite a while before that day. I wasn’t twenty anymore, but was it really that bad? I looked around at my home –
everything was the way I wanted it to be, every item was my choice and there was no sign of the awful, shabby furniture that used to give me nightmares when I was twenty and still a student. A beautiful bouquet of roses which had been delivered early in the morning was sitting in a vase on my coffee table, soft, quiet reminder that my special someone knows just what I like and hadn’t forgotten the special day. And that messy pile of wrapping paper and cardboard in the corner – that was my own present for myself, the pair of boots I had ordered online arrived just at the right moment. Life was certainly no worse than at twenty!
Not only did I survive my thirtieth birthday, but I actually enjoyed it. So why had I been so unsure about the way I’d react even if I had already reached the point where I wasn’t too worried about turning thirty? Remember the close friend I was mentioning earlier? We are the same age, we grew up together and we even turned thirty together, only he did it several days before I did. We know each other so well, yet there are still times when his behaviour surprises me, and after having seen how much of a blow this birthday was for him, I started worrying about what it would do to me… All of the sudden, there was no more time for this guy who had always been somewhat naïve and idealistic in many of his beliefs, almost annoyingly able to always see the good in people and situations. Who would have thought that I, the vane woman, would be calm and rational about my age, whereas he, the serious male, would be the drama queen who has a meltdown? After being grumpy, bitchy and displeased with everything and everyone for no good reason on his birthday, I finally managed to get him to share his troubles on mine… Well, it was mostly a rant, half self-pity and the other half reproachful because I didn’t share his opinion and I would stubbornly not change my idea about my thirtieth birthday being a joyous occasions and not at all the doom and gloom he was describing.
Think of all the aspects single women in their thirties complain about on TV shows and now imagine a man doing just the same – that’s the gist of his turning thirty paranoia. He was single, and if he hadn’t managed to get married up to that point, what were the chances for that to ever happen? All his male friends who wanted to get married, had already done it (and most of them regretted it, I might add), so it must be him, there was something terribly wrong with him. And if there were no perspectives for him to get married, then what were the chances for him to have children? And he wanted children, and all his married friends already had children… But not him, no, not him, everything was over and hopeless for him. Then he moved on to his career, etc., with the occasional flashbacks about not having a wife and kids. And by the way, why the hell was I not feeling the same way, since we were the same age, how could I not see that all was lost and meaningless? There was no point in trying to explain that a man in his thirties is young and attractive, so he didn’t need to worry about finding his better half (or halves, who knows…); there was no point in enumerating all the positive things in his life; his self-pity and disappointment had to run their course before he could see clearly again. But by the end of the evening, I thought I’d have to stop him purchasing adjacent burial plots in the graveyard for both of us as a special birthday gift for me – we were thirty, therefore practically dead.
He isn’t the only man I know who panicked about this dreaded age. Another example is a twenty-nine year old guy who started talking about marriage on his first dates simply because he couldn’t picture himself thirty and not married, it was simply unacceptable. We weren’t close friends, so we lost touch at a point; but I know that he is still single and in his late thirties now, so I bet he’ll make for quite an interesting case study when he turns forty.
All joking aside, age is every so often a terrifying monster for all of us; and like the vane creature that I am, I do my best to if not avoid, at least diminish the tell-tale signs the passage of time leaves behind. But I refuse to obsess over the inevitable, I choose to focus on the matters I can change – life is hard enough as it is, why add unnecessary worry lines? But I often think of the revelation brought on by my friend’s thirtieth birthday – men fear aging as much as women do and we all have good reasons to feel this way. So is there a way of preventing the illusion of time from becoming the disillusion of a lifetime? Do let me know if you have the answer to this one…
“It’s not like that, you’d understand it if you knew her.”
“I’m sure I wouldn’t, but I’m also sure you actually believe that, so you just tell yourself whatever you need to hear in order to go on.”
The silence was drowning the countryside scenery. Nice, cosy and nightmarish, she thought, but that’s not his fault, that appears to be the vastly spread idea about marriage anyway, why would they be the exception? It’s probably never different, they just end up devouring each other’s soul and character in the nicely furnished confines of a home, burying all the frustration, ignorance and dissatisfaction deep under a sea of smiles and placid lies, all under the silent approval of socially accepted behaviour, most likely under the eyes of some child that doesn’t know any better and will probably just grow up to duplicate the parents’ example.
“How about Woollen Socks? Why do you keep him around and not chase him away, so he could find somebody right for him? Or why don’t you make him into more than that, why can’t he make it to the next level?”
“We met not that long after I moved here and he immediately became somewhat obsessed with me. It was pretty obvious and perhaps I should’ve chased him away from the very beginning, because I knew myself well enough to be aware that I didn’t want anything serious with or from him. But I’m selfish and I was a bit lonely at the time too, and the way he worshiped me was quite nice for my ego. He knew that he had no chance to be more than that, the pair of socks on a cold winter night, but he accepted it, or maybe he hoped things would change, that I might change, I don’t really know and I don’t really care. There are still times when I feel lonely and that’s when he’s just a speed dial away, he knows that total availability on his behalf is what I require and he is more than willing to provide that. Because, no matter how bad you think he has it, he still enjoys it a lot more than he would any typical relationship with somebody else but me. It’s me he wants and this is who I am, so that’s what he gets; no more than that though, because he is devoid of any personality, any ambition and intelligence. He may be a nice guy, but he’s no more than that and he never will be.”
For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169
“You do realise that’s a person you’re talking about, right?”
“Yes, and the person in question is completely aware of my feelings, I don’t pretend he means much to me, just as you don’t pretend not to be married. There’s a difference, however: he knows exactly how things stand between the two of us, he knows exactly who I am and what my conditions are, and he has the choice of accepting them or not. He decided he was desperate enough in order to accept anything, as long as once in a while there’s room for him in my life as well; but he is free to leave whenever he wants. Can you say the same about your wife, though? Does she know exactly who you are? Does she get the choice of accepting you or not, or does she just have to live with a nice, cosy lie about what her marriage is?”
She was right… or maybe she wasn’t… He didn’t know anymore, that kind of questions hadn’t been tormenting him for too long a time. It made sense from a logical point of view, but he knew there was more to it when it came to a relationship, especially a marriage; the make belief factor was actually the more relevant one in keeping things together.
“Marriage is different. It’s cruel to tell people things that are bound to hurt them just to fulfill some need for honesty. There’s more to it than that and relationships, especially marriages, need to be protected, sheltered from certain aspects of life; there’s more than enough pressure on them as it is.”
“Right… What you don’t know can’t hurt you. How about being at the receiving end of that sheltering strategy? What if your wife protects you – I’m sorry, your marriage – from certain aspects of life as well?”
“It’s not like that, you’d understand it if you knew her.”
For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169
Brand-new year, same old questions… Amidst all those champagne glasses clinking and all those people cheerfully chanting New Year’s resolutions meant to magically change their lives, some of us cannot help obsessing over what went wrong, what we could have done differently in order to have achieved better results. I’ll quit smoking… I’ll quit that shitty job… I’ll stop drinking… I’ll recycle… I won’t be such a pushover anymore… I’ll go on a diet and lose ten kilos… That’s what we hear left and right. Why the hell don’t women ever go for the guy who’s gonna be nice to them?! Well… that one you don’t hear too often when a new year is on the verge of replacing the old one and everybody is euphorically celebrating all the potential perspectives.
My oldest friend’s familiar voice made me smile; it was my turn to ask myself an age-old question – why do men think their female friends should be able to answer absolutely any question about women? No offense, guys, but what applies to one doesn’t apply to all, we’re not built to fit the same pattern. He quickly got over his conundrum about the latest object of his desire, he smiled back and wished me a Happy New Year once more, not expecting an actual answer this time. But his question followed me – it wasn’t the first time he had approached that subject and rightfully so, since there we were, yet another New Year’s party with him alone and no perceivable perspectives in sight, because he is such a nice guy. So his phone goes back in his pocket – no message from the girl with whom he went out a couple of times and who seemed genuinely interested… interested in getting back together with her worthless ex, that is, as soon as she got a taste of what going out with a nice guy might feel like. And since this particular one was not by far a remote incident, of course he utters to himself, “The hell with women…”; yet he cannot stop wondering where he went wrong and why exactly it is that so many of us prefer to be treated like doormats by various losers, rather than be worshiped and set on a pedestal by the likes of him.
Who is the nice guy? In this particular case – trying to be as unbiased as I possibly can – we’re talking about a more than decently looking man, intelligent, selfless and kind, always there for you, whose needs always come second after yours, who has a steady, although not glamorous job and who believes that a woman is meant to be respected and cherished, not abused or mistreated in any way by the guys in her life. And on a personal note, I know that nobody can ask for a better friend. In fact, this last aspect becomes so disturbingly clear immediately after you first meet him, that one might quickly decide it’s not worth risking to lose such a great friend only to try and have more, only to have some brief affair with him. Let’s be honest, men come and go, while friends are a constant for many of us.
So our guy is still alone and looking around him, he spots countless men hand in hand with pretty, successful women, in spite of these guys’ blatant inability to respect or be fateful to them, in spite of their clearly spoken out lack of desire to be at least civil to them. It was against some of them that he competed and lost the girls now standing there, half smiling and half crying because of the men they had chosen. There she is – that’s the one who begged that guy to move in with her, after promising to pay the rent herself and support him until he got a job; several years later, he still cannot be bothered to work, he drinks twice as much and she’s buried in debts, but she won’t even consider leaving him, no matter how often she has to run and cry on a friend’s shoulder. And that one – she’s the one who often locked herself in the bathroom to cry after having sex with the boyfriend, that’s how much he disgusted and humiliated her, yet even that was preferable to being with a nice guy. There’s another one – she openly preferred the man who threw a frying pan at her for burning the eggs, the same man who religiously checks her phone and email, driven by some sort of paranoid jealousy he finds to be the attribute of any self-respecting male. After all, what’s all that when the alternative implies having to perceive a nice guy in a sexual manner? No, no, no… he’s only worthy of being the sounding board you need whenever you feel like your head is exploding and your soul is breaking in smithereens as a result of yet another misfortunate amorous choice, he’s the one who has to listen to you mention how much you’d like it if men could also be anything but jerks to the women who care about them. Weary of it all, sick and tired of women and their whimsies, the nice guy decides once more that they’re probably all alike, they deserve what’s coming to them, so he won’t bother to care anymore, he’ll just become one of those guys, all the while knowing he’s neither built or able to behave that way to anyone, much less to a woman…
Yes, his girlfriend will receive much more privileged a treatment than she would have expected; in fact, she’ll suddenly find herself in the shoes of those women whose good fortune she had envied for years – or so she thought. Showered with constant affection, this woman will abruptly experience what it means to have a man who only wants to please her and knows only how to be nice to her. From happily bringing her that glass of water in the middle of the night or driving all the way to the other side of the town only to get her that cake he knows she likes so much, to helping her most distant relative or acquaintance move their furniture to their new apartment, he will always be there to fulfil any menial task she might invent. Will he cheat on her? Of course not, how could he, after having gone through all that trouble just to get in her good graces?… So the now fortunate female of the species also has all the freedom she might desire, because he is trusting by nature, hardly knowing the meaning of jealousy and possessiveness – that is, as far as his behaviour towards her is concerned, because he firmly believes she can chose to be with whomever she pleases, whenever she pleases, even leave him if she might be so inclined, no matter how much this might tear him apart.
The realisation that even if he would not cheat on you, you still have to share him with the rest of the world might be quite striking, especially for those of us who want the man they date to treat them in a considerably different fashion than he might treat any of the other people he knows. But one of the nice guy’s major flaws is that he cannot say no, to you or anybody else. His phone will ring in the middle of the night and he’ll get out of bed and go help some vague acquaintance who has car trouble or whose cat needs taken to the vet after swallowing a hairball. And if he’s late for a date, you can be sure he feels terrible about it, because what kept him was not his indifference to you, but his inability to refuse a colleague in need, who was most likely too lazy to do his job in time. That is probably also the reason why his shirt looks like it just came out of the dryer, in his frenzy to do everything and anything for everybody else, he completely forgets to take care of himself. And why should a woman take offence in the fact that he looks as though he slept in his clothes when he takes her out to a nice restaurant? After all, doing something for whoever has the common sense to take advantage of him is so much more important than looks and appearances.
Since he’s had so much bad luck with women, he does his best not to scare them away, so he’ll start off as the “as you wish” guy. Do you want to go out tonight? As you wish. Where should we go? Wherever you wish; as long as you’re happy, it’s fine with me. What should we do at the weekend? Whatever you wish. And it goes on and on, until even the calmer ones of us will lose their temper. Is it really the desire to please or an innate refusal to make decisions, so when things inevitably go wrong, he will not be the one blamed for it? Unfortunately, by the time this question might receive an answer and he might start feeling comfortable and confident enough to have an input and opinions of his own, the girl has already left. We get it, we get, he was just trying not to be dominant; but how about accepting that having an opinion or making a suggestion doesn’t mean controlling a person?
When the girl is not one for making decisions either or she’s just trying to be nice and leave him to his own devices, things tend to take a not so appealing turn. You can forget about going out, because all he really wants is to be with you, to listen to everything you have to say and invade each and every corner of your mind, so he could find out everything there might be to know about you, the most intimate and private details of who you are. And what better place to do so than at home?… Remember that really cute, sexy outfit you bought for those hot clubbing nights? You might as well forget it, because clubs are for posers and pretentious wannabes, you cannot possibly socialize properly with all that loud music and drunken people fidgeting around you. Let’s just stay home, take a nice, long bubble bath together, hold hands and snuggle… you know, really connect… Without even realizing, your mind wonders off to your ex, that arrogant, obnoxiously jealous fool you left because you thought you deserved better; and your memory will play that old, infamous trick on you, making you remember only the good, fun parts, like that last night in the club when you got to wear your appealing outfit and he was so taken by it, the two of you feeling so sexy and alive. Unfortunately, with all the current bubble baths and hand holding making you feel like you’re a hundred and five, chained to this guy for a lifetime and not only dating him for ten days, you forget that your ex was also so great at noticing how sexy the other girls’ outfits were…
In spite of everything else, you made it to your first weekend getaway with your first nice guy and you decide to reward him by letting him surprise you, since he had already mentioned something about how romantic a sunrise in the mountains might be. So you smile contented – there’s hope yet! Or so you think, until you realise that your romantic surprise getaway involves a tent and a pair of hiking boots meant to help you reach that mountain peak where he knows for a fact that nature is at its wildest, so the two of you can enjoy the most spectacular sunrise possible. There goes your dream of a nice, warm, comfortable mountain chalet, with a cosy bed and a soft duvet from under which you could sneak a peek out the window and catch a glance of the amazing sky while he’s bringing you a nice, hot cup of coffee. Did you think that you were going to spend your day souvenir hunting and your evening in some fancy restaurant or loud club? Put on your hiking boots and think again, because the nice guy often harbours a genuine love for nature and its wonders. He will carry your backpack, though… What are we, thirteen, you might almost have time to wonder, involuntarily looking down at your elegant shoes, before you metaphorically run for the hills. The truth is, he means no harm, you left the decision to him and that is what he likes. The same way you might not understand that, he will never be able to understand why you’re relaxed by an afternoon of window shopping (or real shopping) or what you can find so interesting about a hotel in a nice resort, since that’s not at all how you discover true scenic beauty. The truly heart-breaking part is that he will do whatever you like him to, he will put up with all the plans that you make and all the things you enjoy, but as he most likely finds them completely irrelevant, uninteresting and vane, he will roll his eyes and suffer through the deadly boredom you inflict on him; and since he is far from being an accomplished liar, cannot hide his aversion – besides, one is always supposed to be completely honest to the person one dates – but he will constantly ask you why you seem sad or annoyed. After all, that’s what you wanted to do, his sour face should make no difference and you should have the time of your life. In your turn, you sigh with boredom too and your thoughts wonder off to your ex; but this time you are fully aware of it.
What starts off as an unbelievable revelation often turns out to be nothing more than an acquired taste and I believe this might be the nice guy’s case as well, since not only the example in question, but also many of his peers seem to be creatures of extremes, completely unable to find balance or the proverbial middle way in their behaviour. Since things are either black or white, good or bad, there is no room for anything in between and they have formed their beliefs regarding what should generally constitute “nice” behaviour. It’s simple really, they have subjectively decided what “nice” should objectively be like for each and every woman and it is therefore logically implied that anything outside their definition should be undesirable. And they generally suffer tremendously when they see women choosing all those other men that are different from them, therefore not nice, bad. This is where it all falls apart and the dreamboat becomes something else, because niceness and goodness, much like beauty, are also in the eye of the beholder. And since a woman should be able to accept the nice guy for who he is, there can be no talk about him changing. He wouldn’t dream of asking her to change who she is in order to suit his needs. But, in fact, does he not do exactly that?
Who are these women he likes and who keep rejecting him? By some coincidence, it’s always the type of woman who would never be interested in what he likes, her life revolving around different values. Those who might indeed share some of his passions never happen to awaken any passion in him. On the contrary, they tend to fall into the “not pretty enough, not bright enough, not funny enough, not elegant enough” category, because in the end he’s only human, he has his own preferences and taste. Ironically enough, the man who decries women for being attracted to men who hurt them in various ways is also the man attracted to women who would only mistreat him.
In the end, he walks away from another party, yet again convinced that women would prefer any jerk to him, without even considering the idea that treating a woman nicely might imply offering her what she wants, not what he thinks she should want. The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle. There are indisputably self-destructive women, driven by veiled masochism and a deep need to be somebody’s victims; and many of those alpha males are indeed no more than these women’s chosen oppressors. But it is equally true that many of said alpha males become harmless and cuddly the moment they face an alpha bitch in her own element. Everything is relative. So why don’t women choose the nice guy, the one who makes for such a good friend, yet for such a difficult, antagonistic boyfriend, and always go for the bad boy? Wait… maybe, just maybe, some of us want neither a lapdog, nor a torturer for a boyfriend, but simply a well-balanced man, who in spite of his human flaws, manages to find that middle way towards a non-extremist relationship….
But all in all, how does the story end? Does the nice guy ever get the girl in real life? Or is it just not that kind of black and white affair after all?…
It’s Christmas – you cannot forget it for a second, given the hustle and bustle of people trying to purchase anything and everything that isn’t nailed down – and like everybody else, I keep thinking and obsessing about what I want. After all, what else is there to do every year in December, other than be frustrated and angry with yourself for all those things you so desperately wanted and needed and yet you haven’t been able to offer yourself or your dear ones?
I need a break this year. And the reason I know this is because I had a little, insignificant revelation of my very own this year – for the first time, I had the chance to offer myself something I wanted for so long; and that was the moment when I stopped, I took a deep breath after a heavy moment of panic and I was able to admit it was not what I wanted after all. Because what I wanted was what I actually had all along. In that particular case, it was a new apartment I thought I just had to have in order to feel good about myself, so I could derive some deep and lasting feeling of fulfilment regarding my life. Pen in hand, about to sign the contract, I finally acknowledged the fact that I was about to obtain a collection of nice walls in a new and trendy neighbourhood at the price of giving up my home. Yes, my own apartment, the one I had been living in ever since I was a student, was smaller, the building was older and somewhat duller, it didn’t have much of a view; but it was a home, one that represented me down to the last nail in the floorboards. I both loved and hated that place over the years – initially, it had been a symbol of freedom; then it became an obsessive reminder of all that I wanted and could not have, the exquisite view, the spacious rooms, all those things I grew up with and ignored as a child, all those details which became important only when I stopped having them. I had been so adamant about wanting to have more – after all, it’s shameful to settle for what you have, isn’t it? – that I failed to notice that I actually liked the home I already had, the one in which I had invested so much over the years, the one which was ‘me’ from all points of view. I opened my eyes and my mind and noticed that my home was also my refuge, a place of peace and safety which never failed to provide me with the tranquillity I needed, in spite of some of its shortcomings. And the neighbourhood had actually become one of the nicer ones, not at all the way it was when I moved there; and yes, I wasn’t fond of my neighbours, but most likely I wouldn’t have been too impressed with my potentially new neighbours either. So I spent that afternoon at home, for once appreciating what I had, instead of only focusing on the ‘more’ and the ‘better’ that I felt compelled to want. I deleted the numbers of all the real estate agents from my phone, and not because I had decided to never change my apartment. I will move, but only when I know I like the new place better than the old one, and not out of misguided ambition dictating what I should want.
So what do I want for Christmas? Do we ever really know? Do we ever really know before getting it and realising we never needed or desired it, because it doesn’t become us? Do we ever really know before obtaining this object of our desires only to set it aside and move on to the next goal, the next thing we don’t have yet, so therefore we want so badly? I’m doing something else this year – I’m digging up all those things I wanted, I got and I forgot to appreciate in my rush to move on, because I’m hoping that there might be some happiness in actually liking and cherishing the reality of our existence, not only the unattainable dream ahead.
I will enjoy my Christmas tree, remembering what every ornament means to me, the moment in time and the memory it entails. I will put an amazing gift under the tree for somebody special, because their joy when opening it will make me as happy as any perfect present I might receive. I will put on that black dress I like so much – you know which one, we all have one of them, the one that cost us a fortune and we only wore once, because we think no occasion is special enough for it; I will also put on my favourite pair of shoes – one shall not name names, but it’s that pair a girl never wears when driving, so she wouldn’t ruin them. And bundled up in a warm coat, because the outfit is only meant to make me feel better, I’ll go for a drive and enjoy the Christmas lights in the city, without thinking of all the things I would change. I will also think of those people dear to me that might be away for the moment and instead of falling into depression or despair, I will choose to remember that there’s more to life than the holidays and I will treasure the fact that we will be together on various other occasions. But I will refuse to share my time with any of those persons I do not particularly like, only because this is what one must do or because one should not be alone even for a second on the holidays.
And last, but not least, I will remember that not only are there so many people who are happy to have less than I do, but I also used to have less sometimes in the past, so perhaps one can find reasons to appreciate one’s life – with all its failures and accomplishments – after all.
This is why I will take a break for a few days, I will want less and I will appreciate more.
Young, beautiful and independent Amalia refuses to apply traditionalist conceptions to any of her relationships with men; therefore commitment, marriage and couple routine are not part of her vision on life. Cynical and highly aware of the realities of an unromanticized modern world devoid of long lasting feelings, Amalia appears to only seek the promise of a few moments of fleeting happiness next to the men in her life. The opposite sex is often no more than a refuge from all mundane problems and deceptions, so the young woman stubbornly refuses to settle down with any of the men who try to win her affection – that would only mean the death of her soul, independence and character.
A man will treat a woman as badly as she allows him to and no man can offer a woman all she needs – these are two of her strongest beliefs; needing to be in control, she will not shy away from being at least as selfish, self-involved, manipulative and cold as men are to other women in their lives. Intense sensations are her idea of happiness and Amalia seeks someone who can make her feel and forget, but as she thrives on introspection and analysis, doubt and disappointment, together with unwanted and unexpected feelings will often overwhelm her. But above anything else, she is their confident, the one they entrust with all their fears, hopes, past, future and prosaic stories, Amalia enjoying their conversations as a means of escaping and forgetting her own issues. Infiltrating the thoughts, ideas and emotions of men who care for her becomes a guilty pleasure in which she will relish whenever she finds the power to remind herself that any drop of happiness needs to be savored.
Getting to know the various men in her life ultimately translates in a deeper understanding of herself and her needs, discovering she can still be both disappointed and amazed by the person she is. Her evolution over the years outlines the image of a woman who refuses to lie to herself and become somebody else in order to please people and fit in, often accepting loneliness as a reward and not a punishment.