Thursday, February 09, 2017


High up in her lonely tower, the Queen sat stitching. The King was away at war. He was often away at war. So she was often found in the tower, draped in her silks and satins, her needlework spread out before her, her women gathered around in silence, each head bowed dutifully over whatever they had chosen to embroider that day.

Today it was to be a tapestry in honour of His Majesty’s last victory. In the quiet corner of her thoughts, the Queen wondered if it should be called that. They were mere peasants, after all. Driven to revolt by the hunger in their stomachs and on the faces of their children. What fight could a pitchfork put up against a steel blade? What resistance was skin against an iron-clad shoe? But she never spoke these thoughts out loud. Thoughts can be reined, but words are treacherous and in this land of possibility, they could make the unthinkable possible, simply by flying through the air.

She stitched.

By the by – because even the most single-minded woman will sooner or later tire of the chain-stitch – she glanced out of the window. The milkmaids were about. So were the woodsmen. Naturally. All those rosy cheeks, the coy, downturned lashes, the shy giggles –a man cannot live by wolves alone. One of them in particular seemed to have found favour with the maids. She could see why. He was taller than the rest, this one, with broad shoulders, nut brown skin and the most alarming head of hair she’d ever seen. It was black like a crow’s feather, smooth, dark, iridescent. She fingered her own hair, a lock of which had come unpinned. It was pale yellow, silken. She wondered what it would look like fanned across his brown chest. Like butter on a loaf of hot bread. Her stomach ached. “Bread and butter” she told the nearest lady, who scurried away instantly. The Queen licked her lips. This was not hunger. Or perhaps, it was.

The woodsman sensed her gaze upon him. He looked up. She should have looked away. She didn’t. The milkmaids saw their mistress up in her tower and scampered, hurried curtsies not forgotten. The woodsmen, to a man, touched their forelocks and followed suit. Not him. He met her gaze, eyes twinkling, and bowed deeply before walking away. No, not walking. It was a swagger. Perhaps if she wasn’t thinking quite so much about to what to call his walk, things would’ve gone differently. But she was and they didn’t. She pricked her finger on her own needle. Three drops of royal blood spilled on the snow white linen. Her ladies were around her in an instant. They fussed and cooed over her, ineffectual mother hens to an indifferent hatchling. The Queen stared at the cloth. “We would have a daughter” she murmured, “With skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair” she glanced at the retreating figure below, “as black as ebony.” 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Nonverbal Communication

Who told you to do that?, they asked. We didn't. We never tried to influence your life. Those were your decisions. So if you have problems now, don't complain. You made the bed, sweetie, now lie in it.

That's an understandable response, it really is. After all, one always should take full responsibility for one's decisions. But were they really our decisions at all?

You didn't tell us to wear stilettos. You just gravitated towards the girls who did, while we waited in our sensible ballerinas, waiting to be asked to dance.

You didn't tell us to get married early. You just gave our parents a funny little look - half pitying, half quizzical - when they told you we were single.

You didn't even tell us to marry who we married. You only asked if we were quite sure we'd ever find anyone better?

You didn't tell us to have children. You just implied that being married without a child meant there was a problem in the marriage, or giggle-giggle, one of the two.

You didn't tell us to quit our jobs when we became mothers. You just kept asking sympathetically how it didn't kill us when we left our babies behind and went off to work all day.

You didn't tell us to become housewives either. You just judged those of us who didn't have the time to keep their homes spick and span.

You didn't tell us to go out and work. You just wondered, politely, what good education was if you were going to throw it all away to become a glorified servant.

You didn't tell us not to flirt. You just spread rumours about those of us who did.

You didn't tell us not to drink, not to party, or not to dress as we please. You just labelled those of us who did, whores.

So you're right, all of you who say you didn't tell us to do or not do anything. You didn't. Not in words. But in a hundred thousand other ways, yes, you bloody well did. So now, how about we discuss taking responsibility for one's actions?

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

What they didn’t tell me about postpartum depression

They tell you a lot of things when you’re pregnant. And by ‘they’ I mean family, books, websites, friends who’ve been there, done that, and have the scars to show it. They tell you what to eat and what not to eat. How to exercise and how much to exercise. What to wear, what to avoid, what medicines to take, what procedures to pass up. They tell you a lot of things. But they don’t say a single word about postpartum depression.
A few days after I delivered my baby (‘normal’ delivery, episiotomy, ouch, ouch, ouch), I discovered I wasn’t producing enough milk for her. Then, we discovered that she has colic. A connection between the two was suggested and denied. Cures – both for her and my ‘condition’ - were sought, tried and discarded as useless. I was told to make peace with the fact that my baby would cry for seven hours straight at night, that there was no known cure for this and that it would stop when she turned three months old. I was told that not making enough milk was not my fault, that baby formula was just as good as mother’s milk, that perhaps the reason I was not able to breastfeed was because I didn’t “want it enough” and that a low milk supply was seen mostly in educated women, because they “thought too much about it.” This last, by the way, was from a renowned, elderly pediatrician. Male, predictably.
I was told a lot of things. But I wasn’t told that it was okay to be utterly crushed by all this. That it was okay to feel utterly and completely overwhelmed by vaginal surgery, physical exhaustion, a colicky baby and an all-encompassing feeling of inadequacy, all coming one after the other like contestants in the world’s most twisted beauty pageant.