The election of Donald Trump as US president has birthed a determined, ever-growing network of resistance. In the five days following his election, the ACLU collected an unprecedented $7m and over three million people across more than 300 cities took part in women’s marches. Since then, the US government has repeatedly been met with organised, vocal protest, whether it be at their attempt to repeal Obamacare and leave millions without health insurance, or attempts to ban Muslims from entering the country.
Happily living in London, all that’s left of France is a vague distaste for carpet and a tendency to drink coffee out of a bowl. Yet, tonight I’m afraid because tomorrow I shall take to the polls and have no idea which way the wind’ll blow.
I love it dearly like I love fried calamari with a squeeze of lemon, like I do picking mauve seashells, or like I love my uninhibited, matchless pussycat Tino.
I’m not quite sure how or when a woman’s autonomous pleasure–seeking ceases to be considered as charming and lovable and turns instead into something wicked. I know that there’s a tipping point after puberty when a girl ceases to be enough in the eyes of society and needs another unit by her side, preferably of manhood.
You’ve had enough cake, petite chérie. Now go and find yourself a nice boyfriend to please.
Often, I’ll find myself walking down the street thinking happy thoughts, when dark gloomy PMQ-type questions will rise over me. In these sad moments, I don my Jeremy Corbyn hat and raise my two hands up over my head and enunciate:
I have seen the best women of my generation destroyed by horniness, starving hysterical naked
How many women in the UK right now feel that their vaginas are a ticking time bomb?
How many women in Avignon still refer to menstruation as their ‘time of the month’?
or yet even worse,
How many men and women in Bristol have never heard of clitoral stimulation?
(Pinch my thighs and you will find cellulite; peer into my eyes and you will find poise)
I moved to Morocco – the No. 1 exporter of hashish in the world – in the spring of 2008 with my mum and dad.
The shock was really quite severe then because I’d spent about 3 years living in tropical humid Malaysia gelling my frizzy hair back into a tight braid.
Puberty had smacked me right in the face, and Malaysia’s wet and fertile vegetation, with its constant shoots of new life, fruit and animals, echoed the constantly humid zing-zing-zing in my panties, which in turn made me feel very shy and uncomfortable.
Often I would smoke hashish with my friends during our lunch break in a secret secluded spot on a deserted road beside our school. The guards knew what we were up to: they would let us out of the building and wave at us with malice. Once or twice, they threatened to inform the principal, but of course they never did because ultimately what we did was really quite harmless and sweet.
Springs and summers were always fantastic.
Often we would hit the local corner shop, where a clerk would sell us a pack of ten Gauloise cigarettes for 11 dirhams (2.10 British pounds), again not without a few preliminary threats to inform the school, our parents, the King, etc; and my friend, Mina, a handsome girl with a wonderful sense of humour and remarkably sassy eyebrows, would sprinkle hashish on top of a cigarette with enviable dexterity.
We would play music, tell a few jokes, and feel like a thousand dirhams (191.34 British pounds).
Smoking hashish in Casablanca helped me and my friends grow into self-acceptance and learn to enjoy our bodies as imperfect and lovable. Part of it, I think, is that it’s very easy to feel that your body parts aren’t in harmony – that maybe your skintone’s uneven, that you’ve weird freckles on your arm – and getting high kills all of those worries for you. Poof.
You may find the correlation I am trying to establish between masturbation and cannabis consumption fairly obvious – we’ve all heard the stories – or weak, if you’re a bit boring.
It’s a well known fact that smoking hashish can significantly enhance any sexual experience through increased body sensitivity, as can love, an open mind or kindness, but what hashish also tends to do is initiate some kind of debate or conversation around particular themes through its mere consumption alone.
Throw a bunch of people in a room together: let them sit in a circle, and pass them a joint or two. You’ll soon see some kind of dialogue beginning to emerge – admittedly the quality of which can sometimes be very varying.
Sexuality was a big preoccupation of ours in high school. I remember Mina once advising me – joint in hand, left eyebrow raised – to try using the water jet of my showerhead as stimulation.
‘Which part should the pressure hit?’
‘Oh right, but which lips do you mean?
The small ones?’
For some women, masturbation can be a journey requiring regular practice, building wrist and finger endurance and maturity, but, of course, because the subject is so taboo, there’s very little dialogue or advice surrounding the issue.
So, I propose that, in addition to legalizing cannabis, the British government offer free womens’ masturbation therapy courses and counselling sessions via the NHS for those of us that need a head start or helping hand.
I come from a ruthless rootless family of French expatriates. But papa isn’t a diplomat; papa is a CFO at a French car company. He’s spent his whole life working. They send him to factories and to selling points abroad, where he’s given three-year contracts. Papa usually doesn’t know where he’ll be sent next.
Papa’s papa was a baker, and he too spent his whole life working. Papa’s papa would wake up early in the morning to knead the dough and bake the bread. Then papa’s maman would go to the shop and set it all. My papa went to school, and now here we are.
Growing up, I followed my parents abroad. I went to international schools in the countries where we lived and I developed the hybrid International school accent. It doesn’t sound American. Nor English. It sounds like nothing. It’s neutral. Like a tepid glass of water.
I boarded on my first flight at the age of about three months. It was headed to Casablanca, Morocco, where I stayed for three years and was put under the care of Arkïa, a bossy, overweight, entrepreneurial woman with a strong business acumen and an indefatigable robustness. We’d hang out in the wet kitchen and watch Egyptian soaps, usually the kind featuring dramatic Arabic music, women with blue eyes shadow and purple lipstick liner, and drama. And violins. Lai-lai-lai-lai–ah (etc.)
After Morocco, I moved to Malaysia, and then Switzerland—and then France, and then England. And then I moved back to Morocco and back to Malaysia. And finally I left the ever-shifting family nest to go to university in London.
I recall a dinner party in Algiers, where, freshly returned to my parents’ home from university for the Easter break, my head full of ideas, I brought up Edward Said. I talked about neo-colonisation. I talked about money.
The host, lead expat of a major petrol company, replied, “Yes Mathilde, we exploit Algeria. We exploit it in that we help bring out its potential. We come here as immigrants to cultivate it. We make it grow.”
Thankfully expats such as myself are dying out. As it stands, there are fewer expats now than there were thirty years ago. This is because companies are increasingly relying on local professionals to build their workplace. A local professional will be cheaper to employ and paid for with local currency, and most likely, he or she won’t be needing you to pay for the kids’ hefty education fees at an international school.
I possibly ruined my first romantic relationship by telling stories of my childhood. The memories of the places and things that were gone to me.
The chilly fries after school in Malaysia, the school bus rides home with Aunty Jacky.
The sound of Chinese soaps on the radio.
Arctic air-conditioning inside and tropical weather outside.
Keeping the large glass windows in the living room open when it’s monsoon season and letting the scents of trees and flowers and humidity inside.
Milo cocoa powder.
Feeding my cat Tino with Kiri cream cheese and Chergi strawberry-flavoured yoghurt.
Leaving a glass of Diet Coke on the kitchen counter and seeing thousands of ants crawl into it three minutes later.
The smell and sight of street food in Kuala Lumpur.
Dipping a roti chanai into curry sauce and washing it down with chai.
Using a banana leaf as a plate.
The infinite variety of street harassment abroad. Being called a gazelle in the streets of Casablanca.
Going to buy cheap cigarettes with the maid. Forming the oddest closest bonds with people and then never seeing them ever again.
The cries and animation of street life in Petaling Jaya.
Swimming in Penang. Camel-back riding. Sleeping in a “one-thousand and one stars hotel”— a tent in the desert
Reaching puberty in Malaysia.
Having my first period in a hotel room at the Meridian and smoking my first joint in the empty swimming pool of a villa in suburban Casablanca.
I have a whole bunch of memories. But moving around every three years to a new country, I quickly realised that no one wants to hear about childhood stories— especially the ones that are hard to relate to – and in the end nothing stays. Or at least nothing that we can touch.