Chaperone, sidekick, wingman, call it what you want but never underestimate their value. They are an integral part of any social situation, helping their mate attract or deter wanted/unwanted attention. It's easy to spot them; step into a bar and they are usually the one hovering like a bee next to their mate, close enough to offer assistance, but far enough not to get directly involved.

Wingmen are the answer to everyone’s prayers because of the support they offer. They are your extra pair of eyes and ears. They are on beer goggle alert, slapping you round the face with a wet fish (metaphorically speaking) when you’re about to hook up with a munter. They consciously mastermind and monitor every hurdle, task and scenario that you have to overcome in order for you to obtain your goal, whether it be attracting the attention of a desired target or deterring the affections of a drunkard trying his/her luck. They can be your inside man or your escape route and have the ability to make the situation run as smoothly as possible without having any direct involvement.

Men and women use ‘the wingman’ for completely different purposes. Men use their wingman to combat the difficulty of singling out the woman they want, whereas women use the wingman as a body guard. Male wingmen will distract the other girls attention, and sustain the conversation long enough for his mate to get a look in. He ensures his mate looks presentable at all times, prevents interference, pumps your ego, adapts to any situation, and he will have no problem in telling you if you are wasting your time on a girl when you could be getting more successful results elsewhere. The female wingman has a similar role but offers a different kind of support. She will bat off unwanted attention, fend off ugly men, and play ‘the loner’ if you wish to talk to the fit guy at the bar trying to ease you up.

Notably, there are many pitfalls to being a wingman, which is why I feel their duty can be highly under-appreciated; they do not get the venerable credit they so often derserve. Male wingmen will willingly go to the ends of the earth to help their mate gain the attention of their desired target, even if they are made to look like a pillock. The male wingman has to take one for the team, chat up the fatty so his mate can get the batty, and in doing have to endure dull banter and dry conversation. He may even have to take on a whole group of disgraceful looking girls knowing he will get shot down, just so that his mate can go in for the kill. He will downplay his strong points and flatter his mate to build him a more desirable persona. The male wingman has a mutual understanding with his mate that he will do whatever it takes for him to score. Friendship at it’s best.

The pitfalls of being a female wingman are just as bad, if not worse. They are seen as the loner, the extra, the ugly friend, the cockblocker. But they have to ignore this nametag and keep their eyes and ears peeled for lecherous perverts prying on their mate. Along with having to endure long bouts of insincere flirting with the male wingman, she may have to deter attention, sweep her mate away from multiple men and in the worst case scenario step in and offer an escape route. Take for example my good friend, who stepped in to help me last night. There I was minding my own business at the petrol station, filling up on diesel when, out of her peripheral vision she spied two perverts at the ATM machine by the kiosk. As I stood there dolled up to the nines, one of them beckoned me over and shouted: “Oi! Oi! My size…come chat to mans, one minutes babes, come. What’s your number?” Instinctively my girlfriend  wound down the window, stuck her head out and retorted back “It’s 9-9-9. If you can’t get through to her on that line, you may as well tell them you’re a rapist while you’re at it.” Job done, danger averted, the enemy fighter was on my tail and my wingman fired the shots.

The trouble is everyone wants a wingman, it’s just nobody wants to be one. It’s an undesirable role that can be awkward and highly stressful and it takes a lot of effort. You have to be on the ball at all times even though you aren’t the one who’s reaping the rewards. It’s a selfless duty that you sometimes have to undertake for the glory of your friend, but just think of it as an IOU. The next time you’re out and in need of a wingman your mate will be there just as he/she was for you, saving you from a sticky situation which you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get out of. And you will thank your lucky stars, so always remember to return the favour.

Curly Hair

In the words of Beyonce: “It’s too big, it’s too wide, it’s too strong, it won’t fit, it’s too much, it’s too tough.” And no I’m not talking about my ‘ego’, I’m talking about the bane of my life, my curly hair. These lyrics aptly describe all the reasons why I hate my hair. An unruly nest, it sits perched on my head like an overgrown beaver, the star of the show, the main attraction.

I’ve always had issues with my hair; it stems from childhood when, at primary school, I would sit in class having to endure my friends constantly tugging on my curls without any invitation to do so. “It’s so big!” “It’s so cool!” “Wow, it’s so funky!” they giggled, unintentionally making me feel like a freak. There I was surrounded by Aryan girls with long flowing Caucasian hair, and I was stuck with a frizzy bush. Every day I remember going home and begging my mother to straighten my hair, but she was utterly against clamping hot irons round my ‘fro and instead plaited my hair into tiny segments. The plaits poked out in all directions. I looked like a monster. 

I’m not sure what was worse, going to school looking like Medusa, or going to school with a birds nest precariously mounted on my head. I used to cry and pray to God that he/she could give me ‘normal’ hair like all my friends, just so that I could blend in. When you’re growing up you do anything not to be ‘different.’ Conformity prevents you from being the outsider, and the outsider is usually the victim of teasing.

Luckily I was never teased for my big hair, but now I’m grown up it doesn’t stop me from wishing relentlessly that I was born with straight locks. People think having curly hair is easy, just roll out of bed, fluff it up and Bobs your uncle, I’m Diana Ross. But let me obliterate that myth right now. Curly hair is not easy to maintain; in fact it’s anything but. I don’t hop up out of bed and get my ‘fro on. It takes work and lots of it. The combing, conditioning, drying, creaming, moussing, plaiting takes forever, but I’ll do anything to stop it looking like Scarecrow Sally. And the reason why I don’t want to look like a scarecrow? It’s unsexy. The amount of times men have commented on my hair saying that it’s “fun” “funky” “quirky”…it’s monotonous and I find it offensive. I’d rather a guy use adjectives like “sexy” or “seductive” to describe my hair, but that never happens. I’m still waiting for the right kind of attention from a guy who likes me equally with curly hair or straight hair, because in my opinion I shouldn’t be made to feel more or less attractive on the basis of my hairstyle. For this reason, my worries about my curly hair go right through to the bedroom as well. To be uncomfortably frank, as a general rule, I will never sleep with a guy if I have curly hair. You may laugh but honestly, this is an actual rule I have. No sex if it’s curly. Why? Well…to be even more candid, it’s because the thought of me bobbing on top with my ‘fro bouncing in all directions terrifies me, and will probably terrify the guy even more…half way through and he’d be thinking “God, I’m sleeping with a lion!” (think of the mane). 

I can’t defy what God has given me but I do have a tendency to straighten it as often as I can, and when I do it attracts a different kind of attention. If I go out clubbing with straight hair, I receive completely different comments than if I go out with my bush. If my hair is straight, I’d probably say I receive double the male attention then I’d get with curly hair. If I go out with curly hair, I still get attention, but a different kind. People (men and women) come up to me and spontaneously fondle my hair to ‘see if it’s real’ and they don’t even ask if they can touch it, just grope it and say “Oh. It’s not a wig/weave.” It’s annoying and invasive. You wouldn’t walk up to someone, touch their bum and say “Oooh, that’s squidgy!” so why do people feel it’s OK to do that with my hair? It makes me feel like an animal at the zoo and it’s degrading.

All of these personal criticisms about my curly hair may have misled you. I actually love curly hair; I love big, tumultuous, erratic curls…just not on me. When I see a girl with big, naturally curly hair I often think “Wow! That’s gorgeous.” or “She looks so sexy!” And it’s true, it’s beautiful because it’s different, but I just don’t like feeling like the ‘different’ one. I’d rather stand and admire someone else’s curly hair then have it on my head. On my head it just looks wrong; I feel less confident. It could be worse I suppose…I could have ‘limp, lifeless hair’ or even no hair at all! At least I don’t have to put unsightly, ill-fitted hair extensions in which make my hair look like a dirty beehive, or glue an itchy weave to my scalp. I am proud that it’s all natural at the very least.

In the meantime, I’m going to rock out to Beyonce’s ‘Work It Out’ (as I quite often do). It’s the only song/video that makes me feel proud to have curly hair. At least I can shake it about a bit, albeit in the privacy of my own room. Enjoy:

Oh and guys, the next time you see a beautiful girl with naturally curly hair tell her it’s “sexy” instead of “cool”. Trust me, she’ll appreciate it.

Pedal Pushers

Too much of something is not always good; my personal exception to this theory of course is money, but as for everything else…just forget it. People 'en masse': queues, Anarchists 'en masse': protests, Cars 'en masse': traffic, I can just about cope with all of this, but one thing I can’t cope with? Cyclists. And they don’t even have to be 'en masse' for me to get pissed off. Unicycle, tandem, small group or marathon, the uncontrollable agitation rises up within me and it doesn’t matter if I’m a driver or a pedestrian either way I see it as an inconvenience, a hold up.

But the real reason why I hate cyclists so much (aside from them being an inconvenience) is because of their complete total and utter lack of awareness on the road. They ride around the streets willy nilly, completely unphased by the growing number of cars behind them, weaving in and out of traffic with no indication, not even looking where they’re going, completely unfit to be on the road. I often drive past cyclists thinking “do you actually want to die?” And at night it gets even worse; with no hive jacket, no break lights and flat tyres, it’s as if they’re asking to be mowed over. Ghost riders. They appear out of nowhere like a thief in the night and I often find myself slamming my breaks down and darting around them to avoid a crash. I distinctly remember on one dark, rainy occasion swerving the wheel to dodge a pedal pusher and I ended up driving through a huge puddle of water inadvertently saturating the cyclist head to toe. It was glorious; I loved it. If I’d of had the time to stop, I would of whipped out my camera and watch him gesticulate through my passenger side window. Served him right springing out of nowhere like that.

The shoddy cycling comes as no surprise; after all you don’t need a license to ride a bike. That’s a law that I’d like to see enforced, at least it would take some of those maniacs off the road. But instead of laws being implemented to discourage cyclists, the good old mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has created the Barclay’s Cycle Hire scheme to promote the use of environmentally friendly transport. Everywhere I look there are Boris bikers all over the place, riding round the streets and docking their bikes on every corner. And that’s not even all of it; when the tourists get involved it’s even worse. They leisurely ride down the street in big groups, stopping at every instance to look at the sights causing unnecessary traffic. To top it all off they don’t even pay attention to the cycle lanes. I understand there can be some issues for pedallers when it comes to sticking to the cycle lanes, take for example the situation in New York:

I will make leeway for such occurrences, but do not take the piss. If there are no obstructions USE THE CYCLE LANE and get out of my way, that’s what they’re there for. 

In some instances cycle lanes aren’t big enough to cater for the cyclists ‘en masse’ and they have to shut down the roads for marathons causing maximum disruption. If I had a pound for the number of times I’ve been ‘diverted’ because some pathetic cycle fest has taken place I’d be minted. Considering all my grievances about cyclists you can imagine my horror when I saw this at the weekend:

Yes, that’s right the London World Naked Bike Ride; 1,000 naked people riding round the city while I’m stuck in traffic they’ve created, forced to oogle multiple balls and arse crack jiggling about. Fml. I shouldn’t have to endure such monstrosity, just let me go about my business.

The odd thing is that all these issues I have with cyclists only really arise when I’m in London and I haven’t figured out why. I used to live in Shanghai, China, where the amount of cyclists is ten fold to London, and all the chaos never really bothered me. In a city of 16 million people (20 million including day-to-day commuters) the vast majority use bicycles as their only means of transport. Over there, bicycles are ubiquitous; they are absolutely unavoidable, it’s simply their way of life. Everyday I would walk out my front door only to be confronted with hundreds of cyclists on their way to work and I was the one who had to dodge out the way. But I didn’t mind it, I actually found it rather amusing, almost endearing. They ride their bikes, wind, rain or storm with no problem at all, completely detached from the hustle and bustle they're amongst. Some even use bicycles as heavy duty goods carriers! I kid you not.

From a cyclists’ point of view, I understand that they may see it as a great way to keep fit, a cheaper alternative to an automobile and an environmentally friendly way of cutting back on greenhouse gasses. I do not deny any of these things but if you can afford it, why not use a gym and take the bus? I just don’t grasp the appeal of dicing with death for the sake of keeping fit and being ‘energy friendly’, because let’s face it- the world keeps turning, energy keeps burning and no matter how many people cycle, their efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses will always be counteracted by the vast majority.

False Hopes

When I was little I wanted to become a princess. Well, tell a lie, I wanted to become a princess, then a singer, then an actress, then a princess again. But each time my parents asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always gave them the same answer. I looked at them blankly through big brown innocent eyes, took my thumb out of my mouth and said “Pwincess,” batting my eyelids. My answer was invariably met by two different responses from each of my parents. On one hand, my father, finding my naivety endearing would hug me, laugh and say “Well you’ll have to nab yourself a prince, won’t you darling?” On the other hand, my mother responded candidly, firmly telling me that this was a wistful aspiration and it was not ‘in my best interests’ to bet on a life of affluence at the expense of a prince who would most likely not be knocking at my door or throwing pebbles at my window.

I say all this because this week I ended up watching Tangled (for those of you who don’t know, Tangled is a Disney film based on the story of Rapunzel) and found myself reminiscing about my youthful, na├»ve desire to become a princess. The Disney films that I relentlessly watched as a child didn’t exactly help to quell my unrealistic, fanciful notions but instead allowed me to indulge subconsciously in a world of fantasy and happily ever afters, making me believe that finding my prince would be perfectly possible. It’s no wonder that girls grow up searching for their 'prince' and thinking that becoming a princess would be a perfectly obtainable feat when they are spoon fed fairytales involving tiaras, glass slippers, and knights in shining armour. But the fantasy and ‘false hope’ are precisely the reasons why Disney films are so popular. They subtly trick impressionable unsuspecting girls, into thinking that they can experience a love that knows no limits no matter how dire the situation.

Let’s take a look at some examples. Cindarella: An abused, oppressed, unloved girl who lives a woeful life under the negligence of her wicked stepmother, goes on to become a princess with the help of some mice, a pumpkin and a fairy godmother. Or how about Sleeping Beauty: Aurora, a young girl forced into exile to avoid the fateful omen of the wicked witch, is aided by three fairy godmothers who endow her with beauty, and a soulful voice which conveniently happens to attract the attention of a gallant prince. Or even Ariel from The Little Mermaid who is smothered by her overbearing father and dreams of being ‘part of this world,’ so sings tune or two and cops herself a prince AND some legs. Shockingly impossible. The list of examples goes on and on; I’m sure you can easily come up with a few more examples that back up my point.

                                          From this:

                                          To this:
                                          Yes please!

I also want to make a point about the portrayal of men in Disney films, because in comparison to the ladies, it seems they have an easy ride. For instance, Beauty and the Beast. How in God’s name did that frightful beast gain the affections of beautiful Belle? She could have had Gaston and his 12 dozen eggs, but instead she chose a hairy beast? Are you kidding me? Talk about aesthetically ill-fitting:

No wonder guys grow up to think they can get any girl they want, no matter if they look like the back of a bus. But it’s true; think how many ugly male friends you know who’ve punched above their weight and managed to snag a beautiful girl…which leads me on to Lady and the Tramp. The title evidently backs up my point of ugly man (dog) and gorgeous girl (bitch) but that’s not the main point I want to make here. It’s the observation that the dastardly tramp woo’s the luscious lady with some leftover meatballs and spaghetti and she readily falls for his bad boy ways hook, line and sinker, even after finding out he has other bitches on the go. To put this into a more lifelike perspective, think how many times you’ve seen a guy pursuing a girl who is so obviously out of his league, and then cheat on her once they start going out. Aladdin is another good example of a man trying his luck; a ‘street rat’ reverting to trickery and masquerading himself as a prince so that he can marry into ‘official’ royalty. Most Disney heroines are too innocent to ask their dwarves (Snow White), fairy godmothers (Aurora) or mice (Cindarella) to help them deceive their target. They are bestowed with good manners, luscious looks and a melodic voice at birth. Aladdin on the other hand was allotted nothing but shabby trousers, a penchant for thieving and a cheeky monkey called Abu, so it’s no surprise that he’d take advantage of his three wishes and con poor, unsuspecting princess Jasmine into wedding him. Yet again we can easily translate this example into a real life scenario, although men may not lie about being a prince to gain the affections of a potential lover, they lie about cars, salary and status all the same.

But even with all the stereotypes, false hopes and over romanticized views about becoming a princess, at 24 years of age, I still find myself watching Disney time and time again. Watching, wishing, hoping and waiting for a dashing prince to come knocking at my door, professing his undying love for me. It’s a tad pathetic I know, but what’s worse: giving yourself false hope or giving up on love? Right now those are my only two options and the ‘happily ever after’ looks much more appealing.