...and then

Monday, 26 April 2010

I am a feminist

A school mate of mine, who I think I'd like to be friends with now, told me on phone recently that she has been a stay-at-home mum for about four years now, since her daughter was born. This girl, as I remember her from school, was bright, sociable, dedicated, focused, had an excellent work-ethic and hovered somewhere at the top of our class. I think she had ambitions to do something in the sciences, or perhaps it was engineering, I can't be sure now.

I recently spoke to her again and was very pleasantly surprised that she chose a more evolved stream and did her BA in English Literature. Moreover, after having worked in a bank here in Oman for a bit, she married, settled down and is now a very happy mother to a four-year old. The thing that struck me in the conversation was her saying, "You know,  I am not a very career-minded person at all."

For me, that was surprising, because I know very few women of my generation who are not career minded. We were all raised on the ethic that we needed to conquer the world, we needed to stand on our own feet so that we could be who we wanted, so that we could make our parents proud, so that we could go live the life our mothers dreamed of. We were also raised on stories of women facing every kind of degradation in history.

Very often, without our realising, our self-esteem, sense of self-worth and indeed, the very idea of our Self was deeply tied together with having a career. And in second-generation working women, like me, it wasn't enough if you were in one of the "easier" fields: beauty, teaching, clothes, if you hadn't the smarts to become a doctor or an engineer. Somewhere along, we got the message that we had to go do the "tougher" things. I put easier and tougher in quotes because the jobs listed next to them, aren't my definitions of those words. I don't see what is tough about sitting in an air-conditioned office and doing a 350-word story on summer trends for glasses. You're still a journalist but not doing a tough job. Similarly, I don't see what is easy about being on your feet all day making other women beautiful; bending over to thread women's eyebrows or waxing their armpits or massaging their pedicured feet. Beauty, you will agree, is not easy.

But coming back to my point, for most my generation of women it is very clear that the option of staying home was almost not there, unless you absolutely couldn't help it. But this girl, who grew up in a single-income household, is very happy with her status. And while there's only a hint of apology when she talks to someone like me who has a career (somewhat), she's quite comfortable with the fact that her daughter, her family come first.

For a few days, I have been thinking about feminism. For some years now, I have been hearing women say, quickly and defensively, when they tend to speak up for women and their rights, that they are not feminists. And I've wondered why.

I've seen men say it derisively of a woman, that she is a feminist. I, on the other hand, proudly say I am a feminist. I speak up for myself, I speak up for my sisters, I speak up. I love being a woman, I really like men and I love my career as well as my kids. I strive hard to make my parents proud (whether they see it or think otherwise), I love finding out new things about me and just because I play other roles like daughter, wife, sister, mum, friend, and everything else, I am NO less myself. In fact, all these roles just add to my personality. So what exactly am I missing when people run away from the F word?

Thanks to the feminist movements, Men, your mothers, wives, sisters and daughters can vote, can inherit property and are considered citizens of a country. Thanks to feminism, there are laws where rape, molestation, sexual harassment at work are all punishable. Thanks to feminism, girls have a right to education just as much as boys do.

And women, exactly what makes you say, "Hey, I am no feminist but I really think women should..."? Even if you aren't a feminist in the strict sense of the word, why do you have a problem with being labelled as one? Is it because you, like me, love pretty lingerie and are not willing to give it up? Is it because you think 'feminist' automatically means you need to call men words that a sailor would blush at? Maybe these questions are simplistic, but I am just trying to understand why you don't like being called a feminist.

Because you know, us feminists, don't burn bras anymore. We even get married (to men) and have children. Why, we go as far as telling people that we love being a woman and for us many times feminism means that I get to stay at home and there's no pressure on me to earn for the family, most of the time.

Honestly, that is what feminism means to me today. One of my favourite writers (as she is with many women I know) Alice Walker has a beautiful word for it Womanism. For me, being a woman, being a feminist means now that I have most my rights in place -- voting, education, property, the right to choose my last name, the right to be safe (?) apart from others -- I have the right to choose. I have the right to choose whether I want to go to work and make a career, or I want to stay at home and revel in domesticity. Feminism, for me, means the freedom to choose the latter and not feel like I've betrayed my education and my talent by choosing  to stay at home and considering a family more important.

Feminism to me means having the choice to go to work even though I have children and coming back feeling good that I spent a productive day work while looking forward to time with the kids. It means not feeling guilty that I spent time away from them. Feminism means to be able to my buy my own car or designer handbag. It also means to have the grace to say 'thank you' if a man offered to buy either, once in a while.

Feminism means feeling comfortable to say that I asked my husband out; that I like to cook (I don't; just an example) or crochet (which I like) or sew or bake without feeling like if I say it, people will think of me as domesticated, as a "typical" girl. It means feeling comfortable to say I love cars, gadgets and women without being thought of as a tomboy, or worse, a wannabe tomboy. Feminism means not thinking it's a great thing if you own best bud is a man -- it doesn't make you any different from a woman who's best friend is a girl. In my opinion you should have one of both.

What does feminism mean to you?

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Thursday, 22 April 2010

The reason I am still hopelessly in love

.. With the husband.

So, we were talking about an issue that's pertinent but not unspoken about, not too serious but definitely deep-reaching. I said to him, "Why don't you do a post on my blog? You write so lucidly."
He: "So do you, my love."
I: "Oh no, your writing is far superior to mine."
He: "If I am lucid, you are lucid in the sky with diamonds."

{P.S. I am not going to have to explain that it was the song reference, am I?}

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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Bye bye Henry Higgins

I don't LOL. I am not an ROFL kind of person either. And I definitely cannot BRB.

Call me stuffy, call me old, but I'd much rather key in "yahahahha" to express my mirth than use acronyms. LOL for instance: It's become such a ... thing... that people don't even think before using it. Most places, I've seen people just smile, but actually type out LOL. And, hold your breath here, I've actually heard someone say it aloud, while snickering at a completely undeserving joke.

Joker: "So you heard the one where....... "
Joked at: (GiggleS) LOL that's really funny, man. Good joke. 

If that wasn't bad enough, they looked at me for reaction and when all I did was smile a little, they said, "Oh, you didn't get the joke?" See, now I don't want that to reflect on the people I hang out with. More often than not, the people I associate with are really smart, don't assume I didn't get the joke (even if I actually don't sometimes) and definitely don't say LoL. My people actually just laugh or tell me to buzz off if the joke really isn't funny. Even if it's terrible, they'll drown my in a pot of tar but they'll never tell me TTYL, thank god.

But then, I digress, as is my wont. This is not about jokes. I have nothing against jokes; in fact, sometimes I even appreciate them. Even though I am a right royal tragedy at narrating one. That's an art, readers, an art that very few have. And I belong to the majority.

This post, however, is about acronyms. As far as I can remember, I've detested acronyms. Maybe, because like everything else that I didn't like, I wasn't good at remembering the expansions. Many a general knowledge test certificate in my past display slightly decreased marks because I just couldn't expand wretched things like UNIKANTREMMBR or UNISFRIDJUTS.

When I moved to India as a young and totally clueless teenager, I was amazed at how many short-forms people used in conversation. I remember a friend in college once saying she was going to TP to get an FP. It completely threw me. Apparently, all she said was she was going to T(something) Plaza to get a Fountain Pepsi.

I am not so big on sodas so that could be one reason I didn't know the usage. But honestly, I didn't know that thing was called "fountain" Pepsi at all. Where I grew up, unless you bought yourself a can, everything came out of the "fountain".

That was just a precursor to sooo many short forms that it led me to believe that we Indians like to shorten everything. A calculator was called a calci, a computer, comp. These days I've even heard a laptop being called a lappy. Like a puppy who sits on your lap.

I know all of us who twist and turn the English language (including Arundhati Roy who dedicated The God of Small Things to her mother who "grew" her up) love the argument that English is an evolving language with as many dialects as there are countries who use it. But there's got to be a limit, no? Otherwise what's to say that a word that is wrongly used today will become the right word to use tomorrow, because 1 billion Indians (and counting) are using it everyday. Case in point: Over and over again, I've heard people ask me if my husband and I have siblings. Why, yes we do. How old are they? When we tell them there's utter shock and disbelief. And we're a little taken aback. They ask us, your children are that old? And we ask them, when did we start talking about children? Turns out, they meant offspring and not sibling. But they assure me I am the one who misunderstood.

For me, shortening words such as demonstrated in the above paragraph is inexcusable. I can't even shorten names to call people, however long their names are. I used to be nazi-ish about that earlier but I force myself to not stick to it these days because, what do you know, a lot of people prefer being called Spaz instead of Spandana.

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Saturday, 17 April 2010

Thank you, Blog Adda

My post, "Stop Calling it Eve Teasing. You're being molested, not teased" was chosen by Blog Adda as one of its Spicy Saturday picks. While I would have preferred a more happy topic to have been chosen as my first form of blogging recognition, I am nevertheless happy that more women and men will read this and hopefully be affected by it.


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Exactly what does this mean?

This website essentially is peddling a birth-control pill that allows you only one period every three months, which is about four periods a year. Does that sound healthy? Should we be meddling with nature so much? Should women really experiment like this with their bodies? Scariest of all, what animals have the developers of these pills experimented on to get the results they've got?

I, for one, have never wished I never had a period. I have all the usual annoying things that go with a period but I've never wished it didn't exist. Maybe I rejoice in my femininity too much, maybe I love everything about being a woman. Maybe I am resistant to change, but I honestly don't  believe in meddling with things like this.

What do you say?

Request: New readers, could you please go here and put down your stories as well?

* I did some quick, lazy research and  here's what I found about the side effects of this.

What are the possible side effects of Seasonique?

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Stop using Seasonique and call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:

  • sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body;

  • sudden headache, confusion, pain behind the eyes, problems with vision, speech, or balance;

  • chest pain or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the arm or shoulder, nausea, sweating, general ill feeling;

  • a change in the pattern or severity of migraine headaches;

  • nausea, stomach pain, low fever, loss of appetite, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);

  • swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet; or

  • symptoms of depression (sleep problems, weakness, mood changes).
Less serious side effects may include:

  • mild nausea, vomiting, bloating, stomach cramps;

  • breast pain, tenderness, or swelling;

  • freckles or darkening of facial skin;

  • increased hair growth, loss of scalp hair;

  • changes in weight or appetite;

  • problems with contact lenses;

  • vaginal itching or discharge;

  • changes in your menstrual periods, decreased sex drive; or

  • headache, nervousness, dizziness, tired feeling.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Tell your doctor about any unusual or bothersome side effect.

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Sunday, 11 April 2010

And today...

Edit: My real real English language grouse. It's centre of attention, not centre of attraction! Please. Please, I beg you.
My  husband's been in town for a week now and it breaks my heart to think how much the kids have missed him. We were at the airport waiting for him; my daughter was squirming, struggling to run away and threatening to drink someone's leftover coffee when I grabbed her and sat her on the barrier. We commented on everyone's luggage, on how some people were smiling and how some people seemed to have big boxes as opposed to small ones. (She's only 21 months, so I was trying to get her to understand colours, sizes and happy/sad concepts.) Suddenly he walked out, and the energy around her and me changed. She went stock still (we hadn't seen him in three months) and my tummy did a huge somersault. She waited till he got to her and then she leapt into his arms, put her little arms around her neck and didn't get off till she went to bed that night. It broke my heart.
I was counting the number of hours I spend with my kids and all sense of well being vanished. I spend three hours with them in the morning and between three and four in the evening. The rest of the my waking time is at work. I just realised that. Till now I was happy with what time I got and didn't miss them too much when I was at work. But now I realise what a big chunk of time I am spending away from them, I feel stricken, and a little guilty.

Although, I think I am making myself feel bad. Because I was perfectly okay till I did the maths.

After years and years (actually about two months) I spoke to a friend, who I now realise is my best friend. For reasons that I can go on about but won't because I can never write about the people who mean the most to me. Speaking to him made me yearn for his company again. His intelligent, riddled-with-PJs, spotted with the rare angst and pretty chilled out company. I miss his warmth, his love, his complete acceptance of me, his rare, rare ability to make me see sense. How often do we have friends who stand by us through penury, unemployment, who open up their entire home and mean it, who fly across the country for your wedding and are still friends with you even though he got stuck with who he thought were two very scary people, who will show the right way but more importantly who knows that you need to be shown the way? I have only one. And I am thankful.

Why do people who have absolutely no inkling of Marathi and have never lived in Bombay insist on calling it amchi Mumbai? Do you all realise amchi Mumbai means 'our Mumbai'? Which is in no way yours because you don't like it and don't live there? Bad enough you're an urban, English-speaking person and calling it Mumbai.
While we are on the subject of why do people... I have a few more grouses. Will people just stop saying "Thanks God"? It's "thank god"; as in I thank god it didn't happen to me. If you are going to say "thanks god" then you are either speaking in third person about yourself (Violetta thanks god it didn't happen.) Or you're having a conversation with god -- in which case you should use a comma -- and I honestly don't want to be a part of that. Just for the record, speaking in third person is the most irritating thing since Tom Cruise.

This, I think, is an Indianism. "Where are you put up?" Okay now, where are you put up implies that you are in the city for a short stay and are putting up somewhere temporarily. If you want to  know where I stay, do ask me that. I am not leaving this city any time soon.

And what is up with "I likes"? "I like" is okay. It's shortened from "I like the bag". "I like the mug". "I like the dirty bloody tattoo."

Also, can someone please come up with better, less overused, less really uncool acceptance word than 'cool' and doesn't sound as abrupt as 'okay'?


Who said the Omanis are a shy lot? You think I should get these contact lenses to up my sex life?
Seen at Muscat City Centre, an optician's store.

Edit: Am I the only person who found the tagline completely inappropriate?

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Monday, 5 April 2010

I never want to be a high-schooler again

High school was a terrible time for me. Perhaps, all of school was a painful time for me. Now when I hear people say school days were the best days of their lives, I wonder what I missed out on, because, truly I will not have another childhood. Or at least one that will take me to high school.

I have absolutely no bonds with school friends that I cherish to this day. They are all bonds that are at most pleasant. I wouldn't make efforts to go to their weddings, or cross the country to go visit them. I am just not that kind of a girl.

High school was traumatic for me because I didn't fit in. Or maybe I didn't let myself. I wondered about all these confident kids at school who were at best mediocre at everything they did but had tons of self-esteem which made them look like they were fantastic. I was always diffident about any skill I had and while I was not exactly a shrinking violet in school, it would have been easy to play on my deep and large insecurity had anyone wanted. 

I made strange friends, kind friends, friends who accepted me, friends who were only willing to believe the worst of me as and when it suited them. Like everyone else, I made all sorts of friends. This, then, is a tribute to those who will remain in my memory, some of them in my friends, forever.

Sangeeta Mohandas: She was quiet, shy and yet she was the one who sought out where I lived when I first came to Muscat, visited me and forged a relationship of a life time. She, as were a lot of kids in my class, was trained to think that anyone who didn't do well in maths and science (me!) wasn't worth knowing. She was  trained to think she would only be successful if she were a doctor or an engineer. 
And even though she was unlike any of my friends in India, who were all boys, we hit it off, even as she tried to get me to shed my rambunctious behaviour and turn me into a girl.
Today she is a successful mother of a 6-year-old who has shed her conditioning, with a degree in home science and with a personality that I enjoy. She also lost tremendous amounts of weight in the last two years and looks a completely bomb. Complete inspiration for me.

Hetal: I forget his last name. I know, it's terrible. But he taught me that boys can be gentle, and sweet. And that it was okay to be a girl. I don't remember specific conversations but I know this boy stuck in my memory because he was different.

Anuj Kapadia: My first humongous crush. I think this guy was born sensible. Apart from that, here's why I had this crush. He has dimples, he sang (I think. My obsession with men who sing started very early, as you can see), he was good at everything he did and always polite, but with a healthy dose of irreverence, which, by the way, has snowballed into the cheesiest, most corny sense of humour today. 
Here's an example: Recently my status line on FB said, I continue maintaing that I am a flake. 
Anuj's comment: Does that make Ben Afleck your sister?
Today, he has a PhD in some really complicated (for me) aspect of radiology, which he patiently explained to me once and which I am utterly incapable of reproducing here. All I can say is I think what he does will not waste too much water or use up too much plastic. He is also seriously warm, intelligent, doesn't let any opportunity for a joke pass by and totally wholesome.
And so great was my embarrassment at the crush that I signed his autograph book (in class 7 or 8) as "your loving sister," as the asswipe reminds me every chance he gets.   

Harshita Nair: She was my best friend through school. She saw me through a lot. She was one of those confident ones. She could dance, she could sing, she could do maths, she looked and was super nice, she made prefect, she was hugely popular, I suspect she even won a supporting best actor award for an inter-house dramatics competition. And at times, I felt inadequate around her but loved her enough to not be envious. 
She could eat two really big BurgerKing burgers, every day, and remain svelte, she spoke way more than the average number of words per minute and she taught me that it was possible to be talented and not be snooty about it. I will be ever thankful for her friendship through school.
Today, I am not sure we are best friends, or even friends. She has a decent career going, she's done all the right things for her timeline: marriage, husband, bought a house, built a career, travelled abroad. But in my eyes, and I am being very judgemental so forgive me, she hasn't reached the promise she shone with. And I always wonder what happened to that real firecracker I knew in school when I look at this now mellow person. 

Seema Vijayan: We were never friends. I think I put her off the minute I entered class. My impression of this girl -- apart from being someone who was good at academics -- will always be of a really big girl with many grey strands in her thick long hair, someone who was a fantastic orator. The lines "I thrice presented him a kingly crown, which he did thrice refuse" from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar where Mark Antony speaks on JC's death will never belong to anyone but Seema and her strong emphatic voice.
But she sticks in my mind for another reason altogether. In hindsight, I realise this girl had absolutely no sensitivity to anyone other than her friends; in fact, I am inclined to think she was a bit of a bully. In school, I happened to mention to a girl that one of our classmates had serious body odour issues. Then, I didn't have courage to go up to her and tell her it is offensive to others around her, as I do now. So I mentioned it to someone else. This rat told the girl in question who quickly cried to her group, which included Seema. And the bully she was, she came down on me at the basketball court, gaggle of girls backing her up, sticking her finger in my face and saying she knew the "minute she set her eyes on me that I was not to be trusted". 
Dude, come on. 
I don't know what she does today but I do know she checked out my Orkut (when it was active) page a couple of times. When I saw her on my visitors list, I in the silly grown-up way I have, was very thrilled with this blast from the past and sought to add her. What do you know, she ignored it. Nice. 

HM: I am only going to have her initials on here because I know some people who read my blog know her and I don't want any uncomfortable situations for her. She and a few others, if they read, will know immediately who she is. 
What can I say about this girl? She was a true-blue Scorpio. She had a glamour, a mystique that very few tweens or even teens have. She wielded considerable influence over anyone who was vulnerable enough to let her. She had an elder sister, so was privy to much information that duds like us didn't. She was and still is very nice to look at, was loaded with personality and brought yum Gujju food to school. When we bonded, we bonded real tight but when she decided to move on she sort of broke my heart for a year. The loss and the humiliating way I was dealt it scarred me some. But a year later, or two, I realised shit happens. And when I grew some sense, I realised it was entirely her loss because, you know, I am a kickass friend. My lesson from there? A certain wariness of Scorpios, which by the way is unfair because they're a good bunch of people and I don't take the zodiac thing so seriously anymore.
Today, she lives in Dubai with a career I hope she enjoys; her FB status messages tell me her life is full and her marriage good. And her story won't be complete if I didn't say that after 15 years she took the initiative to call and chat, which I thought was sweet. 

If I have enough readers, please feel free to take this up as a tag and tell me about some people in school you'll never forget. 

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April is for new things.

I decided to play with my blog.

How does everyone like the new look?

Saturday, 3 April 2010

And for those interested

After my two attempts at banishing these women from what's very much my door step, I am thrilled to announce that it's been two weeks now and the women are not to be seen. I can't tell you what a relief it is.

A sad thing I heard, however, was that a young Indian girl is being held captive in a villa and is being prostituted. She's moved from house to house every five or six days so that the racket isn't busted. On probing further, I am told she doesn't want to get out of it but she is sad because she's stuck and too young to say no to whatever anyone asks of her, she's getting customers in droves.

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Women are who men wish they could be.

I met up with the girls over the weekend. The restaurant that we sat at, I think they'll run the next time we come by. We did everything from harassing Jonathan, our waiter, to join Facebook so we could all add him to discussing seriously twisted weight loss methods.
Women are always eating, even though we complain about being fat. But how can we not be fat, habibi? We're always eating! Here's what we did. We headed to the mall just after lunch, and because one of us was surviving on a sliver of biscuit that's thinner than an ice flake, she said she needed food. We followed our noses to the food court. Way past eating up the stuff that was ordered, we were still sitting there making life really annoying for those around us because we kept guffawing, raising our hands and slipping in and out of regional Indian languages.
How does one get heard or even hear in a group of really talkative women? You cannot. At any given point, there were at least five conversations going on between three groups of women. And if you thought that was amazing then you need to know that we even commented on the other group's discussions. Super-taskers, that's us.
I was thinking, men will never find comfort in an all-girl gaggle. We desexitise everything. Case in point: We launched into a discussion on how it is possible to predict whether you're having a boy or a girl. It involves breast milk, a wall and a superstition. I will not elucidate. I, for one, didn't enjoy the process of breastfeeding and find anything remotely to do with it uncomfortable and completely tiresome. 
By the end of that conversation, women were grabbing their breasts protectively; ribald jokes had gone completely out of hand and I was on a new mission -- to find scientific fact behind this folklore. 
But I am amazed at how girly that shopping trip was. You see, usually when I get together with my lifelong girlfriends, we usually catch up on each other's lives, we discuss things in earnest seriousness, we talk about work and plans and how each of us is feeling about things. We share a lot of love, some food, some random vignettes from our life of the past three months, very Sex and the City-ish. We're left with a warm feeling of satisfaction and time well spent at the end of it.
But this Thursday, I felt like I'd been stuck into a washer-drier that had disco lights and played music from 'Grease'. The one-liners came fast and thick, the laughter was all consuming, absolutely uninhibited talk of sex, clothes and common enemies flowed. I am usually good at sensing any undercurrents and here I sensed none. ALL of these women, and I mean all, vegetarians and non-smokers even, were warm and welcoming; they seemed to have endless space in their lives for new people. I was new to this group -- I knew some of these women individually, and because Muscat is a small place all of these women were loosely part of the same crowd. Also by virtue of all of them being earthy, fun and totally themselves.  
It would be understatement to say this Thursday was the best I've had in a long time. 

Here's what I learnt.
1) I am not a prude but I can't do ribald
2) Anything to do with breasts in connection with breastmilk makes me uncomfortable. 
3) You really gotta have a bunch of girls where you are not required to think.
4) Everything is laughable when there's a bunch of girls. Your breasts, your sex life or the lack of it, your job, your religion.
5) I have now complete understanding of why women are the more attractive sex and I don't mean looks wise. It's not the breasts, it's not the butt, it's not good skin hair teeth smile whatever. It's that women are who men aspire to be. Fun, fearless (sorry Cosmo), totally sexy in their heads. Wow.
6) I also understand why women can be completely pissing off. It's not that we don't know what we want, it is that what we want changes according to our place in life. 
7) I know the reason we complain about weight. We always have food on our minds. 
8) It is possible to walk around a whole mall laden with goodies and not buy anything. And I am proof of the fact that I need to master that art. My plunder was my first piece of Versace -- glasses.  Nice Elle MacPherson intimate and a lipstick.
9) It's possible to be with 6 other very lovely-looking women and not feel like you're underdressed/overdressed, fatter, thinner, prettier, uglier, hotter, more sophisticated, less sophisticated than them. If it's possible to feel secure in  your skin with six women of completely different personalities, zodiac signs, sizes and backgrounds, then it's possible to feel that way with any woman. Except perhaps Salma Hayek.
10) I need to get out more often.

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