• Shan

How the London Underground taught me to stop giving a F***k


Image Credit: James French

People tend to assume I’m a confident and outgoing person. I’ve been known to rock an outfit or hairstyle that could be called ‘daring’. But ultimately I am, like most of us, just a fretting, obsessing mess, fussing over what people think about my body, my clothes, my hair or my life choices.


We are conditioned to believe that we should all fit within the bubble that society deems ‘acceptable’ – even more so in a country like South Africa, where we’re a little more constrained by some pretty conservative beliefs and ideas.


But you can choose to burst that bubble. I learned this on the London Underground.

London is an enormous city, heaving with over 8 million people from every possible spectrum of human life (and possibly some other life forms). Linking all of this mayhem is the underground system (or tubes) – a real microcosm of London life. Unlike almost everyone else in this city, I absolutely love the tube. I will forgo Buckingham Palace for a long ride on the Piccadilly Line. From the dazzling array of fashion and anti-fashion on display to the quirky characters and unexpected moments and scenes that play out every minute, it’s people-watching GOLD. While I am lucky to have the luxury of not having to commute daily, I get a bit giddy at the thought of hopping on the Northern line and heading into central London, particularly at certain times of day – like late at night when the drunks and nutters are out in force.


We arrived in London in peak summer. And it’s a hell of a thing. Everyone is delirious with joy. The pavements are littered with floral-clad, day-drunk hipsters from midday until midnight. The city is a riot of music, colour and chaos and there is an almost constant stream of trendsetters rolling carry-ons down the street, on their way to their next European mini-break. No one appears to be working. It was in the midst of this magical mire of fabulosity that I felt decidedly uncool.


I did my best to blend in, but I just felt like every Londoner’s frumpier, flabbier cousin. My self-consciousness held me back from enjoying a lot of epic summer moments. I was nervous about meeting new people. I was embarrassed about wearing certain clothes. I didn’t feel cool enough to hang out in certain places. As the summer wound down and the staggering heat mercifully subsided, I started to notice something. Something which was more evident on the tube than anywhere else.


No one else seemed to give a single fuck.


Not about me or what I was wearing or whether my hair looked crap. And certainly not about what anyone else thought of them. Ladies rocked their belly rolls over H&M hotpants. Kweens rocked their full face beat at 9am. People wore their ridiculous costume party outfits anywhere and everywhere at all times of the day with gay abandon.

Everyone was just happily slaying in their own lane. I remember looking incredulously at Evan and saying to him, “Do you see this? Do you see how no one here actually seems to gives one single fuck? It’s fucking marvelous!”


I realised that I could choose to feel as frumpy or fabulous as I wanted. It was up to me. And this simple revelation freed me. To feel more comfortable in my skin. To be less judgmental of others. To ignite a journey of self-acceptance that has changed my reality.

Now, whenever I feel a bit insecure about my outfit or am having a bad hair day, I look at myself in the mirror, and with my sassiest London attitude I repeat my mantra, ‘No one gives a fuck.”


Another important lesson friends… When you stop giving a crap what everyone else thinks of you, boy oh boy, can you get shit done and have a happy life.

Written by Shan. London, UK. shannyblues@gmail.com. 

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