Essex Girls

They are loud, gaudy and vulgar, as one could have guessed when the first conversation revolved around “vajazzling.” Essex girls, or in this case women, are unlike the typical Londoner.

Last Sunday, sipping G&T’s at the posh Maltby Street Market, my friends and I were quickly chatted up by the two women sitting next to us who noticed our American accents. These ladies both had bright blonde hair, gem-clad outfits and jackets with fur hoods – one of which was pink. Despite the negative stereotypes associated with their title, these Essex Women were a blast.

Despite being in their mid-fifties, one of the first things they wanted to dish about was British boys: “So, do you find the boys here quite lovely? Have you fallen in love?” Lady, we wish. Regardless, these women lacked a filter with strangers. Fine by me.

We chatted and exchanged banter throughout the afternoon. We learned one of the women had a son who was soon to be married in Mexico. The other worked in the city and found great joy in bringing her friend into Central London, showing off all the hip, new hangouts – as we all do. They both loved Disney. One had been to Las Vegas, clearly worth Essex bragging rights. Neither was married, though one, surprising even to herself, had recently fallen for a man.

Seeing them interact, you could have sworn they were sisters. My friend, Abby, who is infinitely curious, inquired about their friendship. They both smiled and sighed, grabbing hands to tell their story: “Well, I always lived on this street, but then her parents moved in behind mine. We just starting chatting on the bus. I guess people don’t really do that now, but 35 years later, we are still best friends!”

By the end of the day, all of us were slapping one another on the arm, giggling like we had come to the market together. These women found great joy in simply being themselves, and they didn’t care who stared. They reminded me how the simple things – recounting memories with friends for the zillionth time – are the happiest, and how important it is to always leave room for this in our busy lives.


The People Of Europe: Patrick

Sitting in a hostel bar in Copenhagen, a bald, multiple-jacket wearing Swedish man sat down and ordered a round of drinks for our table. He had money to spend. This was Patrick.

As it turns out, Patrick was staying in the same room as us. And, Patrick liked to steal things. This realization came through a series of passive comments and actions:

“yes, I would fly there to see her, there are so many bikes in the city I would just grab a few, then head home and sell them for parts.”

  1. We began talking about our travels and the city of Amsterdam was brought up. Excitedly, he told us of a girlfriend he had who lived in the city, he would fly to visit her often, but they are no longer together. It quickly became apparent that he wasn’t totally interested in her in the first place, but rather the opportunities that came from their relationship: stealing bikes. He presented this as a very logical idea; “yes, I would fly there to see her, there are so many bikes in the city I would just grab a few, then head home and sell them for parts.” Oh, okay, what’s one or two in the most bicycle-friendly city in the world?
  2. Drinks went down quick, and Patrick had to use the bathroom. He came back with a guide book in hand, and it wasn’t the kind that you receive from your front desk. It was large and full of the “hidden gems of Denmark.” Winking, Patrick, with an impressively high voice, called it “a gift.”
  3. At this point, skepticism was rising. The bar was closing, but he wasn’t ready for the night to end so we bundled up and set off to the Meat Packing District. This was February in Denmark – it was cold. Walking slightly ahead of the pack, my friend, Sam, and I overheard Patrick claim, “…so cold! Very glad I took this vest!” Sam and I locked eyes with an intensity that spoke for itself. We are staying with a kleptomaniac. Be casual.
  4. Once again, Patrick offered to get the drinks. After a quick venture to the bar, he approached the group with a six pack of beer cans, still in their plastic casing, like one would purchase at a grocery store. Maybe this is common in Denmark, but the idea of a bar just giving out their stock as such was foreign to us. Regardless, it fit the mold, our new friend was a certified thief.

These piling attributes were enough to worry us – we were staying in the same room as this man. But, he was so likable. Patrick would crack jokes, dance like nobody’s business and volunteered to hold the hair as another friend puked. Good guy, sort of.

His high-pitched, Swedish voice remains in my head as I write this, as does the gratuity that I was a friend and not a victim of his sticky fingers.

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