My period arrived bang on time this month! But 2.5 days in, it’s on its way out. I felt bad using sanitary towels for so pitiful a period- definitely a slap on the wrist from Ms Thunberg! ‘What’s the problem?’ I hear you ask; A period so brief you barely noticed it? What a result! But what if I told you that last month this flighty visitor was 20 days late preceded by a fortnight of continuous cramping, no sleep, teary hissy fits, sluggish days at work and bloating? You might not think me so blessed. And I’m not. My period has been under the spell of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) for the last 20 years. It’s been one of the most defining conditions in my life but within eighteen months, since the start of the pandemic, I went on a path of discovery that has set me on the foothills to figuring my way out of this. So much so that I think it’s important to share this journey, not only to support fellow sufferers who might be at the beginning but also for women curious about how their bodies work.
For every curly girl, there is a story. A tale of torturous years spent in battle with the frizz. Trying everything under the sun to tame wild unruly tresses only to be beaten by them time and time again. The straightening iron was an ally. The blustery weather a dastardly enemy. Oh the shame, oh the frustration oh the agony of bending your curls to your straightening will! Then you hear a voice, one that was always there, but is now rhythmically pulsating in your head pleading “Enough Let me be ME!”. And then the rest is history. Your curls are freed. But what if that voice just happened to be from your most precious of people in your life? For anaesthetist and Mum Upeka Karaiskakis (née Ranasinghe) that is exactly what happened. After years of indecision shuttling back and forth between curls and non-curls, it was her little five-year-old daughter, Aayla, who inspired her to commit to curldom for good! But let Upeka tell you how it was in her own words…
They say no two curls are the same. Well the same goes for curly-hair salons. I’ve been to a few; from the bohemian Unruly Curls in London’s Ladbroke Grove to the playfully surreal in Melbourne’s Neel Loves Curls. And now there’s a hair salon that gives curls the real glamour treatment. During my Italian Sabbatical I booked an appointment with Fulvio Tirrico, top hairdresser and founder of ILoveRiccio (Italian for “I Love Curls”), a stylishly decked out salon headquartered in Milan. It’s been in operation for a mere five years but is so well known that it is now the country’s curly-hair hot-spot. Fulvio himself is a household name: he is among the world’s top curly hair stylists – alongside the likes of Lorraine Massey and Ouidad and is the brains behind the X-Curl Cut– a patented method of cutting natural hair. The ILoveRiccio brand also extends to its own line of products and hair dyes- (check out my product review later on). So with accolades such as this, and a hairstyle that is 6 months old, I jump at the chance at putting my curls up for the chop and find out what puts the “X” in the X-Curl cut.
Tourism; whether you’re the holiday maker taking some vital vacay or the local ducking and diving in between dawdling visitors, you can’t deny the benefits it brings to an area. My time in Florence certainly highlighted that. After Rome and Venice, Florence is the next most popular Italian tourist destination and why not? It houses over 60% of the world’s art heritage, boasts architectural feats such as Brunelleschi’s Duomo and is the birthplace of luminaries, Michelangelo, Dante, and Niccolo Machiavelli. Sixteen million visitors a year flock to the city to pay their dues and Florence’s economy thrives on it! Restaurants, hotels, museums and tour agencies all revolve around attracting foreigners to make big money. But it’s not the just the conventional establishments that are capitalising. There is a growing group of young and intrepid entrepreneurs riding the wave. I talk to three such locals, restauranteur Federico, Martina who manages holiday apartments and historical tour guide Andrea who have started their own businesses in tourism and are doing bloody good job at it too!
I’m an all or nothing kinda gal. If I commit to a task, no matter how arduous, I claw my way to the end. Only a handful of times have I not. Like when I started reading “Crime and Punishment” by chapter three I was so confused that I conceded defeat. Then that time I was determined to watch “Reservoir Dogs”, the tiresomely long conversation at the opening drove me to boredom…and the stop button. Petty things aside you get the picture! But alas my one year sabbatical in Florence now joins this list and it certainly wasn’t a minor moment to shrug off. Readers may remember my appraisal two months in to my year out in Florence (60 Days and 60 Nights) and now that I’m back I going to update you on the realities of Italian life, it may well just give you something to think about…
Loving your curls is about loving who you are…or is it the other way around? Whichever way it was for you, embracing your natural hair is about staying true to your identity and no-one knows that better than my next admission into the Curly Kella Hall of Fame. Meet 25-year old Mishelle Sandali; an Australian-born Sri Lankan working as a radiographer in Melbourne. We’ve been Instagram buds for a good part of a year, but our friendship goes beyond the world wide web. We are curl comrades in arms. Despite being both beset with hormonal issues that have affected our curls, and relatives who weren’t exactly exalting over our frizz, we’re proud Sri Lankan kellas with a love for our desi DNA. She’s been curl-ready for little over a year and wants you all to know that championing curls was all about reclaiming her South-Asian roots- hair and all!
I’ve resurfaced to tell you that I’ve made it. I’ve completed 60 days of my one-year Sabbatical- dropping work to help myself to a slice of the Vita Bella in Florence. In a tweet I’d say “weather intense, flat hunting tough, made some friends”. But instead of taking the easy way out I’ve decided to put my money where my big fat mouth is and let you know how I’m finding it. I’ve been hyping myself and others about this experience for a good few years and now that I’m here, I bet you want to know if I’m sold on the idea of living here or not? I’m still unsure. The bouts of homesickness are still frequent but what I can tell you is that from finding an apartment to making friends, dating, I’ve learnt a lot and gone through a raft of emotions. So for those curious to take a leaf out of my book, here are my initial observations of Florence 60 days and 60 nights on…
P ics by Gretchen Oris-Chong @Eightcorners
How far would you travel for a good curly-hair cut? Answer: 17000 km. That is the distance I covered from London to Melbourne where Australia’s king of curls, Neel Morley, is sovereign. Since a chance meeting in 2013, I have followed him religiously on social media, not only because he rules over curl cuts but because he truly loves them! The Aussie press can’t get enough of him either; some want to big up his reputation as a curly-hair stylist, others focus on his entrepreneurial talent and then there are those who are hyped up about his quirky fashion sense when he turns up at the Melbourne Cup. So upon going Down Under, I had to book myself in for a signature cut at his funky salon, aptly named, Neels Loves Curls and grab a word with the mane monarch himself.
That’s right. Single. Not single and ready to mingle. Not single and searching. Single. Full stop. End of sentence. As marriages fail, work life becomes more demanding and socialising ever transient, being single is no longer a process but a way of life for many. For the best part of my 20s and 30s I was on a fruitless search for The One! Family and friends often questioned my status like it was a defect. They often tried to set me up, as if they were healing the sick. It got me down for a while. Then at the end of 2017 I thought, “what if I am meant to be single?”. Call it an epiphany – you may think a defeatist one at that – but it gave me so much clarity and freed myself from the assumption that we are all meant to be with someone- an assumption that was at the root of my disappointment and injustice.
Since then I have been retraining my perception of going solo and stopped seeking soul mates as if it was an automatic entitlement. Then I spotted an article about 1930s Vogue Editor Marjorie Hillis’s book “Live Alone and Like It: the Art of Solitary Refinement”. It has been repeatedly published because of its growing relevance in modern society. I related so much to her ideas and was glad to see that I already was on the right track to reclaiming singledom. Now that a new year dawns I’ve decided to continue that trend further in a bid to not sacrifice another day of my youth to lamenting at my lonesomeness nor letting others do so. So if you want to do the same, here is my (and Marjorie’s) guide.
Earlier this week a letter by Einstein was auctioned off for $1.5 million. Its contents included his take on success and happiness:
“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness”.
This comment got the media’s attention. But it also got mine. It reminded me of an experience in April where I was caught in an emotional maelstrom that got me questioning success and happiness. The trigger? Well to anyone “normal”, here’s the anti-climax. I received an amazing job offer that would catapult my career into an infinite realm of opportunities. But when I got the offer my stomach turned, I thought I would projectile all over my desk.
I agonised over the decision about whether to take the job. Therapy, gym, confiding in friends, drawing up a pros and cons list; not one iota of anxiety budged. I came out of it feeling pathetic and frustrated at myself. Now that I have had time to reflect, I realise that I was experiencing the collision between my ambition and anxiety; two diametrically opposite but POWERFUL forces. One is driven by a desire to excel, the other coloured by a crippling fear. It was such a potent feeling that I wondered just how familiar it had been to others with mental health issues. So read on if you relate!