Tag Archives: Depression

My Life Soundtrack [Part One]

Everyone has that one particularly defining moment within their lifetime, when music suddenly begins to make sense. When it finally went beyond the point of listening to music, enjoying music and maybe dancing to music because everyone else was; at some point in everyone’s life, music truly begins to resonate and becomes more than just a song. And, as life progresses, they will reach more moments in life where a song can encapsulate a feeling, or a moment or become the defining shape of a memory. Music is one of life’s biggest passions, or at least it definitely is for me, which is why I’ve decided to share it on the blog today!

If you took a look at any of my Spotify playlists, or took a journey through the extensive collection my iPod has to offer, you’ll soon realise that my taste in music could potentially be described as eclectic. It can go from being something relatively cool, to something so uncool that it would make mental health professionals question my sanity. I’m unashamed of my music tastes, regardless, but do air caution as to when I play the stuff that I secretly love. If I’m home alone, the blinds remain closed and my earphones remain permanently in my ears and I spend the day listening to music of varying genre, so I can bounce around the flat, singing at the top of my voice, with no one witnessing my horrendousness but me (and maybe the neighbours who hear me sing). Sober me has a relatively awesome taste in music, but drunk me becomes a bit of a lunatic and eventually, at some point in any evening, I will hijack any playlist with the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack and scream along. That’s just who I am!

I’m not going to write a blog specifically about the songs that I like, because we could be on for hours and all that would do is show you how bloody ridiculous it is watching me make a playlist. These are the songs that I can pinpoint to a specific point in my history and remember why I love it so much; it can be triggered by a memory, an event, a feeling or even a person and then suddenly that song is all about those feelings. With the exception of a few songs, none of mine are inspired by people other than my best friends and times we’ve had together, but there are a few songs that remind me of Brain, which he amazingly thought to put into a soundtrack of his own by finding a bespoke company that creates custom made vinyl music – it took him a long time and a lot of effort and money, but on my birthday I received songs that encapsulated our entire relationship. On Valentine’s Day we listened to this vinyl whilst cooking and we kept laughing at the fact that we remembered the first time we heard each song and which specific memory we had in mind; they were all pretty much matching, which is pretty much the dorkiest thing you can imagine, but I also find it pretty important.

The Rolling Stones – Like a Rolling Stone

Long before my obsession with Bob Dylan began, an obsession with Mick Jagger began festering in my tiny mind. I can’t remember how old I was when I first heard this song, however, I do remember the exact moment I first heard it and when it became more. It was the early nineties and we’d only just had SKY TV installed, back when it wasn’t the extensive crap-fest of horrendously bad TV shows and adverts it is now. My parents listened to a lot of VH1 and I remember sitting in our living room one afternoon when the intro to the song began playing. It wasn’t an epiphany style moment that made me realise I love The Stones or anything, but it was a moment that I’m taken back to every time I hear the song. I think the fact that my parents both loved it at the time, too, makes a big difference.

Mike and the Mechanics – Looking Back, Over My Shoulder

This song is without a doubt the song of our family. When my sister and I were little, we would make up dances to everything that we liked and whenever my dad took this cassette out of the case and placed it in the cassette player, we would sing our little heads off and, very literally, look back over our shoulders whenever the chorus plays. It has been a firm favourite in every family playlist we’ve created and now, whenever we descend upon my parents house for the evening, my dad puts this on for us all to sing along to.

Bob Dylan – I Want You

I knew who Dylan was before I’d really listened to his music, but this was during a time where I was desperately obsessed with Andy Warhol, his factory and his super star, Edie Sedgwick. I was besotted with this entire decade and the fashion of the 1960s to the point where I would wear shapeless dresses with contrasting peter pan collars and wore nothing but dramatic black eye make up with flicks and a perpetual red pout. I began buying Edie Sedgwick inspired, enormous chandelier earrings and contemplated cutting my hair off and dying it blonde. Not much has really changed, because every time I see her beautiful little face, I want do to it all over again. As a result, I was looking online and happened upon an article that coincided with a piece I read about Edie and Bob Dylan being together at some point in the sixties. This article suggested that Dylan wrote Blonde on Blonde about Edie, so I decided to download it and see if it was true. This song in particular is supposed to capture the moment when Dylan met Warhol and I became obsessed with it. I’m a total sucker for gossip, but I’m an even bigger sucker for songs about people and to this day, every time I think about it, I remember sitting in my bedroom wearing ridiculously enormous chandelier earrings, red pout pursed and heavily eyeliner’d eyes squinting, trying to decipher Dylan’s poetry. Not much has changed, except the earrings, except now it means so much more because Brain is obsessed with him too. One of the first things my parents said about him was to express their surprise that he liked Dylan too. My mam said, WHAT? You’ve got to be kidding! But you LOVE Dylan! 

The Weepies – World Spins Madly On

This song is potentially one of my favourite songs of all time and whilst I can’t remember, really, what made me love it so much, I do remember that when I was going through a really tough time, I would listen to this song and I’d feel a sense of clarity that other songs didn’t make me feel. I guess because, in spite of the lyrics, the music and the singing is beautiful and relatively uplifting. Either way, it’s still one of my favourite songs, except again, the meaning has changed.

A Fine Frenzy – Ashes and Wine

For a very long time, I wanted to learn the piano and write songs, not necessarily to sing to people, but just because I liked the idea of being a musician. I had loads of friends who did exactly the same thing, so they were inspirational to me. Turns out, I didn’t really have the patience to learn the piano and I’m rubbish at writing songs, so that fell through. I had red hair at the time and was pretty obsessed with looking up pictures of women with red hair for style inspiration and this is how I found A Fine Frenzy. At the time, I was going through a really shitty time. I was in a ridiculously toxic relationship that made me miserable on a daily basis, but wasn’t brave enough to end things, because at this point in time, I wasn’t really smart enough to realise that my self-worth meant more than a relationship (turns out it would take me another four years to realise this permanently!) it’s such a silly thing to say, but this song made me wish that I was in a situation like this; it made me wish that I was so in love with someone that if someone didn’t love me anymore, that I would love them so much that I would want to fight for the relationship. Sounds a little fucked up, but I guess because I was in such a horrendous place, relationship wise, I guess I wanted more. Passion, maybe. Or even just to be loved, I guess? I’m not sure, but this song reminds me of wanting to be in love and wanting to feel passionate about someone other than Mick Jagger, maybe!

Michelle Branch – Everywhere

This song reminds me of being a teenager and spending endless amounts of time downloading music and making CDs for me to take into my bedroom and listen to on repeat. I think throughout my teenage years, I’d make a new CD every single day, because my music tastes would change so rapidly. I remember I went through a stage where I only wanted to listen to music written and performed by women and decided to look up a lot of new artists that I’d never heard of and whilst I discovered the likes of Sleater Kinney and other riot girl bands, I also discovered this song and whilst I’ve never heard anything else she’s written, I fell for this song immediately and would bounce around my room, singing at the top of my voice, presumably hoping I would be discovered by a music exec just wandering through the countryside one day. Ha.

Liz Phair – Why Can’t I?

This was also discovered during my obsession with female artists, but also because of the 13 Going on 30 soundtrack, a film I was obsessed with when I was a kid. I also put this song on one of the millions of CDs I made and I remember whenever I listened to it, I would make up these really ridiculously dramatic concepts of me falling in love with someone. As you can probably tell by now, a lot of my music tastes evolved due to my sheer adoration for romance. I am a total and utter cliché, and I fucking love it.

The Distillers – Young, Crazed Peeling

My obsession with Brody Dalle begun when I first saw this video during my early years watching PRock, because my mother didn’t want us watching any of the mainstream channels like MTV because, as she said, it was full of misogynist rhetoric that would encourage us to feel like we needed to take our clothes off and loosen our morals in order to get a man, which is something we should NEVER do. But punk music that encouraged us to become raging feminists was something she was fully supportive of. My obsession with Brody developed to the point where my entire bedroom wall was covered in pictures of her. One time my mam asked me if I still fancied boys and I’m assuming she was wishing that I would maybe take my clothes off and loosen my morals to ascertain my heterosexuality, but those are things she’d never say…

Okay, well, I’m bored now so I’ve decided to stop. I might post more, which is why I’ve called it Part One. Maybe I should have structured it better and included the genre surfing I’ve done over the years, but then again, maybe I will just do what I want and you’ll enjoy it, because I tell you too. Have a good day!

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Happy Birthday, Doris Daze!

This time last year, I spent an inordinate amount of time alone; I would wake up alone, lie and stare blankly at the ceiling, wondering how many hours I would have to be awake before I could get hammered. If it was longer than ‘a few’, I would roll over and go back to sleep. During the week, I didn’t see a soul and the monotony of waking up and waiting to get drunk so I could feel something was my routine. My sister would come and see me and not see anything wrong with me, so would retreat back into her brand new relationship, telling my parents they were being paranoid for suggesting that I was depressed. I wasn’t depressed, though… I didn’t really feel anything in order to feel depressed.

From the space between September 2013 and May 2014, I saw my best friend once, a friend I had never met once and my other best friend twice. Other than that, I spent it alone. I hung out with my sister maybe four times. On a Friday, my dad would insist on picking me up and buying me wine so that I would spend the weekend with him and my mam. Neither of them liked the idea of me being alone, because they were frightened of what I would do. I would then spend the weekend staring blankly into space, locking myself in the spare bedroom or crying. I appreciated the effort my parents went to and I would sometimes put on my game face and pretend I was okay for their benefit, but I wasn’t. I wasn’t at all.

I was living in a house that was too big and too expensive to heat, so I didn’t heat it and wore blankets, trying to keep the winter chill from getting to me. Sometimes, I could see my breath when I lay in bed, it was that cold. It was a house where electricity was too expensive to light, so I didn’t light it and kept all of my energy for my laptop, so I could use Facebook and chat to my mam and my friend Sarah online. I had no job, I had no money and every day I received threatening letters about pay-day loans and other things that my ex had signed up for in my name – he had committed fraud, but I was being left to sort them out myself. My bank balance read £0.45 and I wasn’t eligible for any form of governmental help, so I had to rely on graciously accepting familial donations of £10 here and £20 there… I ate one meal per day, unless it was a special occasion (like, my sister came to visit, or my dad took me shopping) and that usually consisted of lettuce or cucumber, bread and the occasional tin of mackerel. I also used a lot of that money to buy wine, so that my nights weren’t spent cold and lonely, terrified of sleeping, of my environment, living in constant fear that my landlord was going to break in and be horrible to me. I hated my life; I hated waking up and feeling the way that I did, so I used a lot of the money that my family donated in good will, to getting wasted and self-harming so that it didn’t hurt as much anymore.

Then, one day, I decided to start a blog. I was at my parents’ house, as it was my dad’s birthday the following day and I was staying in my sister’s bedroom as she wasn’t home. I used her PC to play Skyrim on, which was my perpetual comfort blanket, when suddenly, for the first time in a long time, I decided I wanted to write. My family, particularly my beloved grandma, were panicking about Valentine’s Day, given that it was my first one as a single lady in a long time, but, as I told her, I didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day – I’d made the effort over the years, because I felt that it was right to do, but even to this day, I’ve only received two Valentine’s Day presents and they were both off my sister; An Audrey Hepburn print and a vintage-style champagne flute with some pug socks. So Valentine’s Day doesn’t really represent ‘love’ in my opinion. Then again, nothing I had experienced, really represented ‘love’. Convenience, maybe. Sex, maybe. But, love? No way… anyway, my first post was about Valentine’s Day. It was an entirely creative piece, but it was funny, I thought and that’s what I decided I wanted to do: I wanted to make myself laugh. I wanted to use life experiences to pull myself out of the perpetual slump I was in, because I wanted to move on. I didn’t want to be sad any more. And that’s how Doris Daze was born.

The happiness that I’ve been able to feel through writing this blog knows no bounds; it has been my constant, amazing best friend for a whole year now, and continues to be something I love to be a part of. Blogging helped bring me back to life again and allowed me to discover who I really am. Through this blog, I have managed to communicate with some amazing people, including some of the best friends in the world: Mungle, Sian, Emilie, Rachel, Amy, Marie, Leona and Becky. I rediscovered friendship and what it feels like to be loved and appreciated by people I get to call friends. I haven’t been a part of their lives much recently and I realise how much I miss them all; they are my lady humans and when I met them and began using social media to chat to them hundreds of times a day, waking up didn’t seem as bad anymore, because they were there to laugh and to play with. They were my company and slowly made the sting of loneliness disappear. Through these girls, particularly through Emilie, I rediscovered feminism and I embraced the movement like an old friend, which in turn helped me become newly self-assured, confident and respectful of myself. I began to write cathartically about bad things that happened to me and used feminist ideals to progressively feel better about those bad things so that they weren’t making me cry any more. I became an overall healthier person, intent on living life for ME and not for anyone else. I owe all of that to the opportunities that blogging has given me.

Moreover, and perhaps the most important gift my blog has given me, is the fact that it was Doris Daze that brought Brain and I together. Initially, I’d made an active decision that I would never be in a relationship again, that I would never allow another person to diminish my character and make me ashamed of who I was; I didn’t need a relationship and I didn’t want one – I didn’t believe in what people could do to you and the power they could exert over you when you were in a relationship. They were dangerous, I thought, and the words my ex and his mother had imprinted on my consciousness was that I didn’t deserve happiness. That I wasn’t good enough. So, it genuinely upset me that I was smitten with Brain from the moment I was introduced to him (Bob Dylan t-shirt, blue eyes and a beard? I mean, come on, I didn’t stand a chance) and we became friends. We became best friends, actually, on our first day of meeting and it only got better – those days where I was getting to know him will forever be etched into my memories as the best time ever – I’d made friends with the male version of myself and it was awesome. Brain was also the first person I actively gave my blog link to; it was the closest and most personal thing that I could share with someone and before then, I’d never felt secure enough to do so. It made me feel vulnerable, but for some reason I also felt like he was the only person I could trust with something as special as this. I have the link to him one Friday afternoon and by Monday he had read it in its entirety, from beginning to end, just like that. His reaction was, you should show more people, I think it will make them like you more. And that’s when I knew that Brain would remain the most important person in my life for as long as I could possibly try to do so; he didn’t see the bad things that happened to me as a black mark on my character and he didn’t besmirch me as some kind of terrible human who was to blame for all of the things that happened to her; he liked me more. Which means more to me than he could ever possibly know… well until now, because he still reads my blog 🙂 hiya!

I couldn’t be more grateful of the people who have taken time out to read my blog, because it means everything to me. Without my blog, I really don’t think I’d be in the position I am now. I’d probably be living at my parents, hooked on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication, living in a perpetual state of unhappiness and regret. Instead, I am head over heels in love with the most amazingly sweet and genuinely best human I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing and, better than that, I feel that I deserve the love he has to offer me. We live in an amazing little flat, overlooking the water, filled with belongings and paintings and posters that encapsulate our personalities (which are basically mirrored in one another) and our relationship… everything is so important because everything here I have experienced with him. I feel so safe, content and I feel happier than I have ever felt in my life and, more importantly, I feel that I am deserving of all of these nice things. I’ve genuinely forgotten what it feels like to be truly sad and when reading back through my old blogs, I really don’t know why I allowed myself to be so manipulated or so abused, or so sad as I felt about someone who was never worthy of my time.

It’s funny what blogging can do for people, but I’m really glad that my blog helped me discover who I really am. Thank you, all of you, who’ve taken time to read my blog over the past year… Here’s to you all. And here’s to you Doris Daze, happy birthday, my love.

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It’s All in Your Head… Fuck Up.

Today, when Brain left for work, I had a panic attack. It was gradual at first; my eyes pricked with tears and my bottom lip wobbled as I fought the feelings bubbling up inside of me. I ignored them, rolled out of bed with my drink, make up bag and a jumper in hand and exited the room, sobbing lightly. I walked into the hallway, felt the soft rug underneath my feet and stopped, overwhelmed by the feelings desperate to escape. Then everything went black.

When I realised what was happening, I was coughing, spluttering and gasping desperately for air, tears streaming down my face, my drink spilled on the dark pink rug, make up bag contents pouring out all over the hallway. I felt like I’d been there forever, but in reality it was only a few minutes; my eyes stung with salty tears and my throat felt ripped raw. I was making noises that I didn’t recognise in myself and my body was trying desperately to regulate my breathing, coughs and splutters getting in the way, convincing me I was about to vomit.

It’s horrible when that happens.

Today, I had to leave the house by myself. I had to get on a bus I’d never gotten on before and go to a building I’d never been to before, in a place I didn’t know existed until Tuesday.

I’m twenty six years old and I have panic attacks about leaving the house alone, to destinations that are perfectly safe but unknown.

“What if I get lost?”
“You’re not going to get lost.”
“What if I get murdered?”
“You’re not going to get murdered.”
“I might…”

Irrational thoughts occupy my mind. When I’m alone, I am constantly aware of every creak, every sound and in order to block those out I have to keep my earphones in at all times. If I hear someone enter our block of flats, my breath catches in my chest, terrified of someone knocking on my door. When I hear people wander past with their dogs or their children, taking a leisurely stroll by the river, I stop what I’m doing and wait until the voices have disappeared before I can continue. If it’s night time, that feeling gets worse. They’re entirely irrational, but they’re there.

Even if I’m with Brain, I still feel this way. When I can’t sleep and I wake up, I am convinced that I’m being watched, that someone is going to murder me. I try not to go to the toilet when it’s dark, because I think that there are burglars in the house, waiting to hurt me. I lock the bathroom door and then panic, wondering what I would do if I did hear burglars and they tried to get in, or worse, hurt Brain. I have contemplated having shoes permanently in the bathroom in case I need to run to my sister’s house to call the police, it’s that bad.

When I’m at home during the day, I look forward to lunch time, when my sister comes over because she makes my day go really quickly. We stay inside and I take comfort in the fact that she is there and nothing can hurt me. I sometimes try to stay asleep for as long as I can, so that I only have a little while go to until my sister comes over and then when she leaves, I don’t have long until I see Brain. If she doesn’t come over, then I spend a lot of my day wishing that she would.

When I’m home alone, the blinds are always shut. Sometimes it’s because I am listening to music and dancing like a fool, but most times it’s because I’m frightened of people seeing me, then trying to break in to kill me. The blinds have to face a certain way so that there’s no chance of people seeing me through the tiny cracks and even then, I long for curtains so that I can block everything out entirely.

Sometimes I am aware of my irrational thoughts and I feel intense shame at being so ridiculous. I live right next to The Tyne and long to go out and take pictures with my new camera. Sometimes, buoyed by confidence, I will get ready, putting on my shoes, coat and hat, walk towards the door and stand there, for what feels like an eternity, staring at the door handle. Then, I take off my shoes, coat and hat, go into the living room and sit there, staring at the blacked out television, ashamed of myself all over again.

I don’t tell people about my shame, or my anxieties about being alone, or being in the outside world alone, but even when I feel confident enough to leave the house, the thoughts are still there. The anxieties are still rippling through me like a tidal wave. Tuesday, I went into Newcastle for a meeting with a really nice lady and I felt fine, other than that I was very aware of how horrible my shoes were and that they made my legs look bizarre and that people were looking at them and judging them, snorting under their breath that I wasn’t fit to be outside alone. Anxiety prickled under the surface of my skin, but that day, it didn’t’ come out. I was proud of myself and bought a book to celebrate: Books make me feel good and I felt comforted that I had done something positive.

It prompted me to lead the rest of the week confident in myself, so needless to say I was blind sighted by the anxiety that gripped me and wrapped itself around me like cling film today. I feel like an enormous disappointment to everyone, a spectacular failure.

Living with depression, anxiety and feelings of not quite, but near enough loathing is horrible, to be honest. Most of the time, they aren’t on the surface, but they’re always there, just waiting…

#TimeToTalk was yesterday and I didn’t write anything for it, because I felt that I wasn’t in the best position to. I felt confident, I felt good. Things change suddenly. Such is life, I guess.

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Anxieties About Blogging & The Future.

As a writer and blogger who allows literally the entirety of the internet a stark, honest and unabashed insight into her life, hopefully using smidgeons of comedy and interesting, bold content, I feel that I might be, somehow, holding myself back. As proud as I am of the content I discuss on my blog, I still write under a pseudonym and nothing about my online presence, or manner in which I market my blog could be described as personal; other than my boyfriend, no one I know in real life reads my blog and no one, other than close friends and family, know of its existence. Those who do know of its existence have never seen it and wouldn’t know what to search for, even if they wanted to read it. Its instances like this, which I feel assist to my feelings of general despondence when it comes to my blog and my plans.

To speak of my goals, of the things I would like to accomplish by habitually providing my blog with content is something I have never done. It’s something I feel that I am not talented enough for, that I am not someone whom people would regard as ‘serious’ enough to write on a professional level – which is a ridiculous concept. There are countless female comedians, females who write for excellent newspaper outlets, magazines, businesses, television networks who are unashamedly themselves; silly, rude, confident, hilarious and this comes across in their writing too. So why do I feel that I’m not good enough? Is it something that could have an element of truth or something that I’m being entirely paranoid about?

Recently, I have been asked to write for a rather large UK publication and also asked to become a paid writer for a large establishment in the North East and whilst these are enormous accomplishments, part of me thinks that it’s all a joke – that someone will eventually jump out from behind a wall, point at me and laugh at me for ever thinking anyone would want me to write for them professionally, let alone get paid for it. Which is an entirely foolish concept. I am so lucky to have wilfully left a job that offered  me no real – right within my grasp attainable and financially viable goals – with no jobs lined up for me and have had these amazing opportunities, essentially handed to me on a platter. In two months, I have dabbled in the waters that will, hopefully, if I’m very lucky, lead me to my dream career: Published & modestly paid writer.

I think it’s a confidence thing, but I’m not sure if it’s something other bloggers face. To me, it seems that the only concept that people can employ and consider when speaking to/about female bloggers is that we all write about clothes and make up – things that employers, particularly male employers, find non-threatening and just a bit of fun. I feel that when I tell people that I write about feminism, mental health, confidence, sex and pop culture in a stark, honest and hopefully witty/funny manner, their eyes darken and I can almost see their mind working away, wondering what I am doing, daring to interview with them, or leave my house without a big neon sign pointing: INTELLIGENT, OPINIONATED, PROBABLY A BITCH, STEER CLEAR at my head.

It may be paranoia that is sifting through my unconscious mind, causing me to cast doubt upon my passions and evident talents, or it might be something that is true: Everything I do, everything I use in order to market my blog and share it with people is foolhardy and that I won’t be taken seriously as a writer due to my attempts at comedy or somewhat self-deprecating manner in which I write.

This blog doesn’t really make too much sense, but I had some concerns and having spent the day not feeling rooted in reality and that I am not real today, I have also been incredibly anxious and panicky about my future. I’m hoping that I’ll read this tomorrow and some worries will be put to rest, but if you’re reading this and would like to help or share some words of wisdom, they would be much appreciated.

Thank you. Lots of love x

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A Series of Lamentations: Body Confidence

In a society obsessed and unable to take the attention and (male) gaze away from women’s appearance, whether it be their body shape, clothes, hair styles, make up, legs, arms, body hair, fingernails, cuticles, pores, inner thighs, vaginas, phantom limbs… you name it, we’ve been scrutinised on it, so I thought this episode of A Series of Lamentations (said dramatically like I’m narrating Days of Our Lives) should cover the topic of body confidence. It’s something I’ve never written about, but write about sexual confidence freely and confidently. For me, the two are synonymous, but for so many women, the idea of being sexy is nonsensical; you can only be sexy if you look like the girls in the lad’s mags, right? Wrong… So very, very wrong, ladies!

As soon as I was catapulted out of the warm embrace of childhood and puberty rolled in like a thick, black cloud, catapulting my idea of self into a state of perpetual doubt, my beanpole limbs suddenly bending and stretching, pimples exploding onto my face like a surprise hailstorm in summer, I would cry and for years, enormous, fat tears would roll down my cheeks and sobs would escape my mouth as I looked on in horror at my naked self in front of a mirror. In spite of being born gloriously tall, I had a perpetual hunch in my shoulders, forced as a result of trying valiantly to appear small, petite and perfect like all of my friends were. I would take one of my long, bony (elegant, maybe?) fingers and prod at the almost non-existent pot belly that I had and wail that I was enormous, cursing my hips and size fourteen jeans that hung off my hips and perpetually retreated down my legs, as though wanting to rest around my ankles, a non-existent arse unable to keep them upright. My breasts, a reasonable D cup from the moment I hit puberty and further growing to the exponentially larger cupsize they are today, were far too small, too strange, too saggy and unappealing. I didn’t look like the girls in the films, or the magazines or the music videos; I wasn’t, as my mother described perfect and she was a proven god damn liar, if only she knew what I saw when I looked in that mirror…

As I got older, my metabolism abandoned me and all those nights I would order takeaways or eat convenient packets of party size crisps, huddled over a laptop writing essays, my body shape changed; it became softer, more round, my hip bones lost their definition altogether, replaced by rolls of extra skin that stretched violently, erupting in marks that highlighted my new body shape with sickening candour; my dress size soared through the roof and I looked at my jeans mournfully, longing to be able to get those size fourteen skinnies beyond my fat knees. Elasticated waistlines and baggy, loose fitting dresses became my staples. Jeggings were my saviour. When I went out, I wore black, thick tights, multiple pairs of spanx, anything that would slim me and make me look like the other girls in their crop tops, bare arms flung in the air, moving to the sound of the music; mine, shoved inside a cardigan, sleeves pulled over my sleeves, shuffling from side to side, hating them, hating me.

I fought with my body for so long, I became resolute that I was too fat, too unattractive, too boring to be anything other than the person that I was; I hated myself and it was a recurrent, constant theme in my life. I struggled with my body confidence until this year, twenty five years into my life. But it took me a while. When I first became single, my dad, bless him would say things like ‘lose a few stone, get your high heels on and go down to the rugby club and bag yourself someone who can throw you round the bedroom, even if you’re still a bit heavy!’ thinking that I would laugh and agree, which of course I did, he meant well and thought I was the most beautiful girl in the world even with an extra three stone strapped to my body, but it didn’t make me feel great. I didn’t want to be the person who people would look at for her body and then decide whether or not to have sex with me; I wanted someone to engage with me on an intellectual level, someone who would drink wine with me and stay up until the early hours of the morning talking about a stupid piece of music we both obsess over. I wanted someone to wrap their arms around my stomach and not be revolted that I don’t feel like a model, or someone who goes to the gym. I didn’t want to be someone who relied on their appearance to feel beautiful, I wanted to feel beautiful inside and out and be with someone who agreed.

I don’t feel too self conscious anymore; I have my moments and I sometimes ask my boyfriend to close his eyes if I’m leaving the room naked or with my stomach on display. For months I didn’t let his hands wander anywhere near my stomach and now his hands will wander and touch the ridges of my stretch marks; nonplussed that i was once a significantly larger human. I guess it’s a bit ass-backwards to say that Brain gave me body confidence, because he didn’t. I think it was the moment that I realised he liked me and I wasn’t a stick thin model I thought hmm, so to be attractive, I don’t have to be wearing matching underwear or look like an on-screen siren? I can just look like me? Okay… and I guess he helped, but to me that isn’t really the problem; if you have someone who helps you feel body confident that’s so great. But what about if you don’t?

When you’re single and reading articles on how to be great in bed or how to dress to impress, there’s the overwhelming, choking feeling of expectation and I think that’s what prompts so many fits of self-doubt and loathing within female society and if you’re reading this and thinking ‘I feel so unconfident in my appearance!’ then nothing I say will make you feel any better, it’s one of those things that creeps up on you like old age, or ill-fitting underwear; it’ll happen one day and you’ll just feel and act differently to the way you did before. When I realised that I was funny, smart and that my words had prompted someone to fall in love with me, I realised that no one actually gave a fuck about my stomach or the fact that I have a severe aversion to running or sit ups but me. I stopped caring what other people thought of me and started focusing on what I like about me. So what do I like about me? I like everything. I like my hair, I like my overly large eyes, I like my teeth that look like pegs and my nose that is slightly upturned at the bottom so that it looks like, as my dad lovingly describes, a ski jump. I like my sticky out ears and my hair that has no style other than the fact that I own it and no one else does. I like my breasts and my legs and my flat, long feet. I like everything about me and that’s something I never thought I’d feel. I stopped giving a shit about what society deemed sexually attractive or acceptable and I just embraced myself for being exactly who I am.

Now, thinking back to how unconfident I was, I feel sad that I spent so many years restricting myself and not doing things out of fear of being the fat one, that people would realise that I was fat… as though people didn’t already know… I wish I’d gone with my friends to Greece and finished my application for Camp America and went to New York to study when given the opportunity, but didn’t because I thought my appearance wouldn’t win me any friends. I regret that, I’m sorry about that and I lament it, as expected.

moi

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A Series of Lamentations: My Granddad

Thirteen years ago today, my family and I lived in the south of Holland and had done for a while. We lived in tiny village, beautifully picturesque and small enough that you knew all the nooks and crannies. I was in my first year of comprehensive school, which was in a city to the south of us and the manner in which we got there as kids was to meet all of the other kids in the village and bike there; we were advised not to go it alone, because predators lay waiting in the bushes, so all of the other kids would meet at the dirt track road on a morning and bike there together. I never enjoyed it because I always had to ride at the back and no one talked to me, but I never expected them to simply leave me one day… but they did. Eventually, my dad had to drive me there and pick me up, because, as the kids explained when I dared to ask them why they left me, I was English and obviously a whore, thus didn’t belong in Holland.

That day was like most – boring. I was alone all of the time and when people did speak to me, it was usually to laugh at me or judge what I was wearing, or laughing at my sandwiches of choice that I’d taken that day. I remember one day some girls found a tampon that I had in my bag, after rooting through my purse, and parading it around like I was some kind of monster. They assumed because I was twelve (not quite thirteen), on my period and using tampons, that I must also be having sex, which made me an even bigger English whore than before. Fun, right? Yeah I know, buzzed off school, me. Anyway, this day was a non-day, as far as I was concerned. It was the day that I had history class, learning about the riveting history of Dutch farm life with a supply teacher. The children started bullying me; I was stupid, English and the reason that wars started and the sole reason why everyone hates the English. My mother was a whore too, because only whores gave birth to whore children like me…you know, basic bullying that builds character? Well, the supply teacher, naturally, sat down in front of my desk and joined in the bullying, which is always the way; professional and providing the duty of care that any parent would expect their child to receive. I stormed off, because I was going to leave school and never go back, but I forgot my coat and thought my mam would go insane if I came home without a coat, so had to wait like an idiot and have each of them walk past me as I tried to go back in, shouting Dutch obscenities, making me wish I had enough fists to punch them all, fighting back tears. This was also the day I found bubble gum in my locker, so I couldn’t get my key in, which added to the awesomeness of my day. At the end of the day, I waited for my dad to pull up in his car (a black Citroen Picasso, which I still miss to this day, it was like a bullet and I got to sit in the front because no one else was with him and I felt super cool in it) and he was a little later than usual. I got in the car, he didn’t speak much, but then again, neither did I and we drove home. My favourite part of the day.

When we arrived, something seemed decidedly off. I remember walking in and everything feeling cloudy; the house wasn’t as tidy as it usually was, the dogs weren’t excitable, my mam wasn’t cooking our evening meal in the kitchen. A half-eaten bowl of cereal lay on the breakfast bar… I looked into the living room and there lay my mam, still in her pyjamas and dressing gown. She looked pale, crestfallen, sad. My sister sat next to her, grinning at me, which confused matters slightly. I sat down beside her, my dad sat down beside me and she told me… she told me that my beloved granddad, her dad, had died. I instantly looked at my sister, who sat grinning like a Cheshire cat, prompting me to instantly question my mam and tell her to stop joking (turns out, when faced with tragedy or any form of emotion, my sister grins. It’s awful and we tell her to stop, mostly because we can never figure out if she’s happy or sad at certain news). My mam told me that she wasn’t joking and my sister was chastised for being insensitive and then told me that she had been contacted by a family member, either my grandma or one of her brothers, I think, to say that he’d passed away in the night. That’s it, just gone.

Today marks thirteen years since my granddad died and it still hurts just as much as it did then. In fact, that’s a lie; it hurts more now. I still miss him more than I ever have done and coming to term with his absence doesn’t get any easier. He was such a funny, amazing and brilliant man; I adored him so, so much and he adored me right back. He was my favourite person in the whole world, I idolised him. When I stayed at my grandparents, my seat of choice was either opposite him, so I could look at him at all times, or right next to him, so close that I touched him with all of my right side. He was so smart, stoic and handsome; he looked like a proper granddad and his wit, playful nature and attitude so full of joy made him an absolute pleasure to be around; he adored his children and grandchildren and we all adored him in equal amounts, if not more. His absence in our family, at Christmas time, birthdays, father’s day, is palpable; his empty seat filled by another person’s body hurts.

I’m so sad today. I’m sad because so much stuff has happened in my life that he hasn’t been able to be a part of. He loved hearing the stories that I wrote growing up, or receiving letters when I lived away (I once wrote an incredibly insightful and detailed letter telling him that I’d been suffering from diarrhoea, which he laughed at to no end, apparently!) and I think he would have enjoyed seeing me grow up, to see me as an adult and have conversations with me. My mam tells me that he would have been so proud of me, loved me so much and cracked up laughing at all my stupid jokes, that have all my other family members in fits of giggles whenever I’m with them. I’m not the success story of my family, I haven’t really done much other than become a writer with a wine habit; I’m not married, or doing a job like nursing or having babies, or going off on holidays whenever I can. I just live my life, writing away. But I think he would have liked that.

I miss him so much. It still hurts so much. I still grieve for him whenever I see his photographs on my fridge, I still remember the games we played and I just wish that I’d been able to see him before he died. Give him a cuddle and tell him I love him one more time. I can’t even remember what the last words I said to him were, presumably because they were so nonchalant, because as a child, I just assumed I’d speak to him again. I miss him. I miss how he smelled and I miss how he had an afternoon changing time, where he’d go into the kitchen and change from his morning pants to his afternoon pants. I miss the drawers in my grandma’s kitchen that were full of shirts and cardigans and trousers, because he liked to dress in the kitchen. I miss the scramble we had as kids to pick all of our toys out of the way on a Saturday morning, when he’d put off hoovering until midday and then run our toys over, laughing heartily as we shouted NO, GRANDDAD, NOT BARBIE!! I miss his smile, I can still hear his laugh and I ache, because I want to hear it again. I miss him. I love him. I wish he was here.

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Twenty Something Midlife Crises:

If you’re reading this, then you may be a twenty something individual going through a little bit of a crisis. I understand. Crises are usually reserved for the middle aged and are thus appropriately glamorised because they had their shit together in their twenties and have therefore earned enough money in their lives to buy a new hairpiece, fill their faces with botox, buy a red sports car and develop a drug addiction, derived from having many dinners and sexual dalliances with high end prostitutes. Twenty somethings are not privileged enough, nor have they earned enough money prior to fly around in a sports car, paying people to have sex with them. (I should also point out that mid-life crises are not gender specific; women have them too, only they are far less glamorous and probably result in drinking wine in the afternoon and declaring themselves ‘cougars’ hitting up clubs with their other miserable friends in order to revitalise their youth in a manner which botox and sex with prostitutes wouldn’t be able to fulfil). Therefore, there is no readily prepared information on how to stop having a crisis in your twenties, get your shit together and stop lamenting over the fact that you’re in thousands of pounds worth of debt because of a degree you were encouraged to get to improve your quality of life/employment chances has resulted in unemployment and eating dried garlic bruschetta for lunch because you’re too cast adrift in your life to consider proper food consumption. I get it, so I’m here to help.

You see, I too have been, adrift and in crisis. One could argue that my current state of affairs is akin to feeling adrift and in crisis, but I would say that you are wrong, because the first stage of a crisis is denial that you are in a crisis. Much like a red sports car is such a good idea, because the ladies love a red sports car and no the media has not bastardised the red sports car to the extent that driving in one is synonymous with being an old creep looking to touch people young enough to be their daughters. You see, denial, it knows no boundaries. I am not denying that I am in a crisis, because I’m not – there is a checklist, which I have handily drafted for you all to highlight that you may be having a twenty something crisis, but I, most certainly, am not:

  1. You have a degree in some kind of artistic pursuit that filled you full of purpose during your formative years, but has since left you feeling empty in body, mind and pocket.
  2. You choose to pursue the talents bestowed on you by said degree by pursuing this as a hobby, which will accidentally, one day, flourish into a career.
  3. You have more wine glasses than you do any other type of glass in your flat.
  4. You take stands quite a lot and are often incensed by things such as the news, adverts and the inability to use your television due to your partner’s inability to explain how to use said device properly.
  5. You have too many dishes to clean on a daily basis.
  6. You have stood in front of a mirror and lamented over your girth, foaming at your reflection, but happy in your resolve that this must be your natural body shape and not a sign that you should stop eating ice cream.
  7. You don’t often wear a bra during the day, so that when people deliver packages to your door, you look like you’ve been breastfeeding two baby elephants simultaneously for the past half an hour.
  8. Or, if you’re male, don’t wear a shirt and the results are pretty much the same.
  9. Your mother often rings you to ask you if you’ve had any joy on becoming a proper adult, instead of the overgrown toddler you have essentially become, given your addiction to bottle shapes, afternoon naps and tears at not getting your own way.
  10. You write lists.

If you have checked positive for any of these, then I am very sorry, but you are probably going through a twenty something life crisis. Given, of course, that you are in your twenties. If you are younger than in your twenties, then don’t worry, your parents pay for shit and this is just childhood, enjoy it, get a tattoo. If you’re older than in your twenties and/or are married with children, then you should probably get your shit together, get off the internet and do something more worthwhile in your life. There is no room for you here.

The main problem, I think, with people who are going through twenty something life crises is that it’s not glamorised enough. Instead of being rich and having sex with people, we are poor and watching Netflix on loop every day watching actors have simulated sex with other actors. It’s all very drab. Plus, if you decide to inform someone that you feel you may be going through a little bit of a crisis, that you feel that your talents and life are dwindling away, that you’re at a point in your life where you see others with their shit together and it gives you feelings of intense anxiety to know that you are at the bottom of the gene pool in both terms of sexuality and employment. These people who you talk to are inherently selfish and will therefore laugh heartily until tiny tears are coming out of their eyelids, they will shake their heads, smile at you and tell you that you should pursue a life of comedy, or that you should write a fictional novel because the stories you come up with are crazy. If you don’t speak to someone selfish, then they will tell you how great you are and buoy your confidence up to a level where you feel stupid for ever feeling that you were in crisis, until they leave and you realise all they did was make you feel temporarily better and are probably worse than the people who didn’t support you and thought you were insane.

The truth is, twenty somethings worldwide are the first generation in life who are on the precipice of life but unable to jump over into that ship of self-sufficient adulthood and money in the bank that doesn’t need to be saved for bills or you’ll be kicked out of your house for not paying rent, because it’s just too far and you’re scared of the presumably shark infested waters that undoubtedly lie beneath. Our parents had their shit together, when they left school at sixteen, careers were pretty much handed to them, having been crafted throughout their school careers. My dad knew he was going to be an engineer and became an apprentice, my mam a hairdresser and did the same. I left school and I knew that I was going to spend a significant amount of time lying around looking at pictures of Ryan Gosling on the internet and reading books, before going shopping two days before college and buying clothes that made me look like a weed smoking hippy from the 1970s that wouldn’t make me any friends. We’re part of a generation that are in debt before we even decide what we’re doing in life, meaning we can’t pursue the things that we should do in our adult lives: mortgages, weddings, financial stability, babies, buying a car that we don’t have to lease, decorating and weekend DIY. Instead, we remain in an almost infantile state, attempting adulthood but failing miserably, working temporary, shit jobs whilst holding out for our degrees to finally pay off, developing addictions to things that remind us of childhood: which explains why EVERY male human you know has either an addiction to some kind of Japanese anime, playing army on his playstation or his xbox with his friends and that girls are weird and icky and why EVERY female you know has at some point in their lives bought a hat with animal ears on it and changed their Facebook status to Disney princess in training because they spent an entire evening drinking wine and singing along to Disney songs in their pyjamas, wishing that men were like Disney princes (not the parts where they kiss you without consent whilst you’re asleep, or kidnap you and refuse to let you see your family so he can force you to love him, though).

To me, it seems like the only thing we can really do at this point in our lives is develop the ability to time travel, go back in time and punch our childhoods right in the face. Tell them to not pursue academic excellence and instead settle for the mundane, because everyone you know who didn’t go to university is now in a proper career, has bought their first home and is married to someone they overlooked during childhood. Let them know that if they do pursue the arts they will end up fat, miserable and unemployed, the only joy in life being the fact that you have found your forever human, so at least that’s out the way and that if you’re asked to join companies under zero hour contracts or for barely minimum wage you should laugh in their faces and explain that they are what is wrong with the economy and spit on their shoes before storming out of their building, indignant and…well, unemployed.

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She.

One year ago: A pale, shivering woman sits in a barely lit room, swathed in blankets. She stares blankly in front of her at the blackness of her television screen; she doesn’t move, she barely thinks. She is scared to turn on the television, frightened to turn on another light as she’s unsure of how much electricity is left on the meter and with no money to top this up, she doesn’t want to be left in darkness; darkness terrifies her. Everything terrifies her. In her cold, shivering hand, she barely grips a bottle of tequila, a gift from a friend. The taste is acidic in her mouth, causing her to gag every time she allows a sip to slink down her throat into her empty stomach. But it keeps her warm. The gas in the house went off ages ago; the house is freezing through, a draught blows through the ancient fireplace, sweeping through the house with frosty vigour. She shivers deeply and tries to grab the bottle tighter. Her stomach rumbles, a low, incessant, deep wailing from within: She hasn’t eaten in 24 hours. She’s starving, but there is no gas to light the stove, no food in the cupboards. She wraps the blanket a bit tighter around herself, wishing that this was not such a familiar scene. I wish I was dead, she thinks.

Her phone lights up, a message from her sister:
Hi sweety, how are you? Xxxx
I’m ok thanks. How are you? Xxxx
I’m great thank you! What are you up to? Xxxx
Not much. No heating. Not much electricity. Am keeping TV off so the lights don’t go off before bed. Xxxx
Have you eaten? Xxxx
No food. Or gas. Haha xxxx
Stop being lazy, go to the shop! Xxxx
No money. I don’t have my bank card either. Xxxx
What? Where is he? Xxxx
I don’t know. He took the money dad gave me out of my purse, along with my bank card and left this morning. Xxxx
Oh, Doris, man… Do you want me to Just Eat you a pizza? Xxxx
No, no thank you.  I’ll be fine. Love you xxxx
Love you too xxxx

There is a loud knocking on the door. Her heart pounds, her entire body heaves with fear. Cautiously, she stands up, blankets slipping from her body, cold biting at her warm body. She tiptoes towards the door and peeks around the corner. The large shadow of a man casts a shadow throughout the empty hallway.

“Hello?” she asks the shape at the front door.
“Hiya, there’s a delivery for number 23?” smiling, she opens the door.
“Thank you!” She closes the door, locking it, remembering to remove the key just in case he comes home and is angry that he’s locked out. If he comes home. She smiles as her tummy rumbles loudly in anticipation, thankful of her sister’s act of kindness. She puts the pizza down on the coffee table, picks up her phone and types out a message to her sister:

Thank you for being you xxxx

Later, she makes her way to the bedroom. She sends a quick text message, asking when he will be home. There is no reply. She finds the scissors in the bathroom and begins to scrape at the long, healing scab on her thigh.

A few hours later, she hears the door slam, but doesn’t shut properly, banging even louder off the wall as it bounces. Another hole she thinks. Footsteps make their way upstairs. She wraps the duvet more tightly around herself and closes her eyes, slinking down in the bed a little bit, moving her body to the very edge of the bed, trying to act asleep. There is movement in the darkness and a figure stinking of booze and something else falls into bed beside her. A few moments pass and snores that only someone deep in a whiskey induced sleep can produce. Carefully, she slinks out of bed and makes her way downstairs to close and lock the front door. In the dark, she stumbles over a pair of shoes and falls sharply to the floor, slamming her knees off the cold wood. She feels blood trickle down her leg. She sighs.

She climbs back into bed, the booze and unfamiliar smell washing over her, causing her to turn her nose up in disgust. His phone lights up and she notices a message from the girl he works with:

Thanks for tonight 🙂 ❤ xx

She rolls over, wraps the duvet around her tightly, picks up the sharp object she keeps under her bed and begins scraping along the freshly healed scar on her wrist. Oh.

A few days later, she would spend the day with her mother and sister, trying to find some joy in the fact that it was almost Christmas, feeling nothing but emptiness; an encapsulating feeling of non-existence that only cutting into her flesh seemed to eradicate, even if only for a little while. She follows a jubilant mother and cheerful sister around shops, remembering to react to their questions, smile at their jokes, making jokes of her own; anything to appear normal. Eventually, it’s time to go home and the dread associated with going to the house she lives in envelopes her once more. Just a little while longer, she thinks, hoping for a traffic jam or the car to break down. All too soon, they pull up outside of her house. She kisses her family goodbye, noticing her mam staring a little too hard, something impenetrable behind her eyes. She knows, she thinks as she climbs the steps to her house. She turns around, waving at her sister’s disappearing car and steps into the cold, dark house.

She walks through the dark hallway to the living room, flicking on the light as she walks past. She stops in her tracks, turns around and leaves the room, remembering to turn off the switch. Too cold, she thinks. She makes her way into the kitchen, opens the fridge and sighs at its lack of content, turns around and makes her way upstairs. Bed seems like a good a place as any, she thinks, noticing the time: 7pm. As she ascends, she notices a large cupboard door ajar. Frowning, she walks over to it and peers inside. Empty. Her frown deepens as she walks into the bedroom and sees that there are drawers open. They’re all empty too. The wash basket in the corner has been emptied; only her clothes remain, littered on the floor. Hmm. She turns around and goes back downstairs, flicks on the living room light and takes stock of its contents. Computer gone. Xbox gone. On the table, she notices her bank card. Oh.

She sits on the edge of the sofa, heart pounding. She unlocks her phone and brings up her banking app, checking her balance: 43p, a lot less than before. She takes her purse out of her bag and finds a 2 pence piece in the bottom, littered amongst the old bus tickets. Oh.

She texts her sister:
I think he’s left me. Xxxx
What? What do you mean? Xxxx
Well, I got home and all of his stuff is gone, my bank card was on the table. 43p in current account. Xxxx
THAT BASTARD. I’m coming to get you. Xxxx

She didn’t feel anything. She cried, she fell to the floor and sobbed, clutching at her chest, clawing at her face, but she didn’t really feel anything. The truth is, she hadn’t felt anything in a long time; she acted, of course, she knew she was supposed to be happy, she knew that she was supposed to be grateful that there was someone out there who could put up with her: She was difficult, she was unattractive, she lived only to depress people and bring them down to her level of depraved melancholy. She should have been grateful, but she couldn’t feel anything. The only time she felt the semblance of happiness was when she drew knives or scissors or anything with a pointed edge against her skin – not fine cuts, but jagged claw like marks into her skin. She would cry, she would feel guilty and she would think of her mother and cry more. What would she think? She felt empty for a long time. Years. She knew she should cry, so she did, but she didn’t know what she was crying for. It wasn’t loss, or remorse or heartbreak. It was because she knew she had to. Society dictated that. So she cried.

Eventually, when the rubble had cleared, so to speak and when she had time to take stock of her thoughts and consider what had happened to her throughout 2013, she felt humiliated. Humiliated that she had wanted to leave, but was convinced to stay, that things would get better, that this is what relationships were, these days. She felt humiliated that she was followed around, screamed at and bullied by an ancient woman posing as a mother, wishing instead of being respectful of another person’s mother, she had punched her in her botox filled lips and thrashed her senseless for inflicting so much pain onto another human being, allowing her own son to make her the victim of domestic violence (more emotional than physical, admittedly) knowing that she too was once the victim of domestic violence. She felt humiliated that he would take her money, money that her dad gave her for bills and food and warmth; he would take that and spend it all on booze, cosying up to other women, saying vitriolic things about her to these people, laughing at her ignorance of what was going on. Poor, fat, ugly girl, doesn’t know how good she has it, I’m god’s gift… my mam says so. Eventually that humiliation turns to anger and eventually the anger dissipates into an intense lingering pity, until that pity disappears and all that is left is a desire not to have ever known him.

She gets on with her life. She meets new people. She writes again. She smiles as soon as she wakes up. She doesn’t take prescription drugs and downs them with tequila any more. She doesn’t take sharp objects to her skin. She doesn’t wish she’s dead. She comes back to life; like a flower in the spring time, reaching towards the sun. She is brighter, she is stronger. She is happier. She won.

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Why Ryan Gosling Ruined my Sex Life.

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When I was younger, recently emerging from the innocence of childhood into my perpetually moody, tempestuous adolescent phase, sex became a major focus in my life. Not in terms of enjoyment, or indeed, participation, especially not knowledge on the topic, but a kind of intrepid fascination; like, I imagine, people who spend their life dedicated to atheism, witnessing a miracle and changing their lives to repent their sinful ways to a deity who still may not exist; sex was something I was fascinated by and I believed, once I had sex, life would be put into perspective and everything would just make sense, you know?

Funnily enough, during my first tentative steps into adolescence, I didn’t even explore sex from my perspective, but became obsessed with talking about it. Nonchalantly, like it was something I was incredibly learned in. I didn’t say much other than ‘sex’, it would just pour out of my mouth and other youths would look at me in what I hoped was a certain admiration, like, ‘oh, look at her being so knowledgeable about something we know nothing about… Let’s worship her!’ In hindsight, I think everyone thought I was crackers, but I likened myself to those French girls in the movies, the ones with the really long cigarettes, in stripy tops with a floppy hat resting casually on my perfect hair. I always have red lips in my fantasies about young me being an adult before my time, which is presumably why I’m so obsessed with a red lip now. Anyway, it was something I knew nothing at all about, but I conveyed myself with a certain confidence, so that people would approach me to talk about their own sexual secrets. I became the Mother Theresa of my friend circles sex life.

One time, a friend approached me and told me that her boyfriend’s mother found a used condom on their kitchen floor and now hated her, thinking she was promiscuous. She was heartbroken about it, because he started ignoring her and sometimes, in front of groups of friends, would make derogatory comments about her vagina. I attempted to soothe her with my motherly tones, that only the tallest girl in school can convey (never someone boys fancy, always, always a mother like figure) and told her the following: Never let a man judge your vagina, it is yours alone to use as you please and his mother should be pleased you are both practicing safe sex! Her anger could eventually lead him to impregnate someone… Fear of condoms is a thing, Claire. I helped her move on from this awkward situation and eventually they got back together. I think she quoted my words of wisdom to him and decided to make me maid of honour at their wedding (no, of course it didn’t happen. You have sex at fourteen with a boy who makes it the entire student body’s knowledge, then of course you don’t get married!).

Internally, I was not as nonchalant about sex as I would like to be. Truthfully, I didn’t fully understand what a blow job was until I was seventeen. For this, I happily blame my father, who, when watching Highlander told me and my sister that a blow job was what you do to a car after you wash it, to make sure it dries properly. So, sitting drinking cocktails at a Wetherspoons in Durham one day, a friend tells me she gave someone a blowjob and, incredulously, I replied ‘LIAR, HE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A CAR!’ Anyway, I soon found out that a blow job was exactly the same as sucking someone’s cock, which also confused me because blow would imply that you actually blow onto someone’s penis, which, from what I’ve been told is rather painful. Never mind, back to the point: When it came to sex from my own perspective, I’m afraid I was more a rose coloured glasses kind of girl than the brazen, confident French girl I so desperately conveyed to others.

In truth, I spent a lot of my time fantasising about love, rather than about sex. I watched a lot of romantic films and instead of thinking about the act itself, I thought more about the type of person I would like to give my virginity to. In keeping with my tradition of obsession, the one man who really set alight to my loins and passions was Ryan Gosling. From the moment I saw his moody, beardy face, working away at some wood as he valiantly tried to restore the home he fell in love and lost his own virginity in, there was really nothing else I wanted in life, just Ryan Gosling (or a human with a beard, which kinda worked out well, all things considered!). I also never really thought about having sex… You know the bit in The Notebook (the director’s cut, not the regular release) and Gosling picks up McAdams and tosses her onto the bed and all the feathers from the pillows billow up into the air and float romantically back down onto the bed as he gently takes off her stockings? That bit. Also the bit afterwards where they snuggle and the next morning when he wakes her up with loads of rose petals leading to the room where she paints. That’s it. I didn’t think about (whispers) Penetration. In fact, that had never, in my entire fourteen years of existence crossed my mind. Seriously.

So, my first time was terrifying for a multitude of reasons. If you’ve read my blog previously, then you’ll realise that my first time was actually the result of being trapped in a room, forced onto a bed where someone forced a really disgusting looking appendage into my previously untouched lady parts. It was horrible, it was over pretty quickly and my hymen shouted nothing but abuse at me for days, but all in all it was over pretty quickly. I can’t really remember the events, I can only remember how awful I felt. How no one would believe me and that Ryan Gosling would never do that. I do remember vowing that I would never have sex again and that men were horrible and I should fear them. Which I did for a long time. I can safely say that sex didn’t really put my mind into perspective and that neither the act or my feelings on the matter made any form of sense… it was horrible, plain and simple.

I know that people tend not to have much luck during their first time, that unless you’re really lucky, that for the most part first time sex is horrendous and embarrassing, but for me, I’d never even thought about tearing hymens or bodies slapping together awkwardly and out of sync; I’d thought about the romance, about love and feeling so comfortable with someone that it simply happened in an idyllic, romantic setting. Even if it was just in a boring bed; it would feel like I was having sex under the stars and it would be beautiful. It was about choice for me, about being so besotted with someone that sex didn’t even matter, but I didn’t get that choice. I often think to myself now that if I had simply not been so talkative about sex, so helpful to my friends and less focused on Ryan Gosling and more on my own reality that it wouldn’t have happened. I’m not trying to blame myself here, not at all. I’d only first kissed a boy in that same year and it was horrendous and not at all what I was expecting. I’d only done it because I was being peer pressured; a year before hand a boy had tried to kiss me and I’d come over all medieval like and practically fainted at the idea of a boy touching my tongue with his own… I wasn’t ready. That’s the whole top and bottom of it and the only blame here is the blame I place on the scumbag who thought it was okay to rape a virgin. A really childish looking virgin too, I think I was wearing a bow! But, if I’d perhaps been more realistic about sex, or, even, if I hadn’t talked about sex like I was some demure, smoking French woman, I’d have not ended up in a situation where I was pinned down and raped because he thought I was begging for it. Truth be told, all I ever really wanted was someone to tuck my hair behind my ear, hold my face and kiss me like Gosling does. Fucking Gosling; maybe he’s to blame too.

It took me a long time to get over my first time and did, genuinely, refrain from sex for a very long time. If it hadn’t have been for one of my best friends, a Wednesday afternoon and a hand shake, I might not have had sex again, but that’s a story for a different time…

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I Don’t Want to Rip Your Cock Off and Feed It to You. I Promise.

As a woman, I find it hard not to get involved in discussions about feminism. I wrote earlier in the year that I felt a little disillusioned by feminism, as I was quite confused about how it applied to me. Other than being a woman and believing my body was my own and that I was the only person who could make a decision about who could have access to my vagina, I felt like I really didn’t embody any true characteristics of feminism. I was never taught about feminism at school other than about suffragettes and women starving themselves in the name of equality. I don’t think I could ever starve myself, I love food. If I could be in a relationship with food, I would totally be in a relationship with food. If I could choose my boyfriend to be not made of human parts and made entirely of feta cheese, I would totally do it and I would eat him. I could never starve myself in the name of anything at all, not even being a woman. Feminism and the majority of topics I read surrounding feminism didn’t really seem like something I could be a part of, even if I really wanted to be.

However, I decided not to give up on something I believed in, even if I didn’t believe in it in the traditional way, so I persisted. I bought books, I Googled FEMINIST and I started following genius women on Twitter who write and talk about feminism frankly, openly and for the most part hilariously. And, to my surprise, there are SO many of them and none of them are man-haters. In fact, the ones I’ve met and who have become my very best friends love men and for the majority, have a man shaped human of their own who they love dearly. In these past few months, I have been educated on feminism far more than I ever was by books or articles online or even my own education. I don’t think about feminism as being part of something that is trying to actively change something, I think about feminism as a part of my personality, another characteristic, similar to my sense of humour or the fact that I cry at everything, I am also a feminist. I don’t that’s something to be ashamed of, or something to be judged on by other people. But, I think the reason people do judge, is because they simply don’t understand it.

Remember, people: Feminism is just a word. It’s a word just like fuck, or cunt. It causes outrage when said in the wrong context, or in relation to the latter said any time. They’re all just words, but none can really cause you any harm. If I shout GO FUCK YOURSELF! I am actually not threatening that someone should actually take time out of their day to go and masturbate. If I call my best friend a ‘daft cunt’, I don’t actually mean that he embodies the exact characteristics of a silly vagina (what is a silly vagina, you ask? I’m not sure, but I will endeavour to write a short story about a vagina with dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian and I will call it: Daft Cunt: One Vagina’s Dreams of Making it Big! Because it has double meanings. I know, right, I’m a genius, I should be famous.). And it’s the same when I call myself a feminist. I am not actually an angry, Birkenstock wearing razor dodger; I’m just Doris, I like wine and dancing and sitting on my arse, I don’t want to rip your cock off and feed it to you. I promise.

I think that’s just it, though; people don’t understand feminism. We aren’t really taught about it and it’s not something we teach in schools even today. When horrible things happen to women like domestic abuse or rape, they either aren’t reported, or covered on the news – I hate to say it, ladies, but it does just make us look like we’re pulling half bits of information out of our arses and plying them together; if the news aren’t going to report these things, of course it makes us look like we’re exaggerating or lying, even.

A few years ago, I remember sitting down to watch the six o clock news and I watched a segment on this man who was walking down a lonely path somewhere and he ended up being gang raped by a bunch of other men. The news report was talking about how his life was ruined, how he was now suffering depression and that his attackers hadn’t been caught. Some of the men I know took to social media to talk about it and their reactions were vitriolic. “Fucking DISGUSTING that, people like that should be fucking shot! My arsehole is clenched at the very fucking thought!” it was a huge topic that pissed men off and men discussed it, because it was something that applied to them, something they could understand; they empathised and imagined how they would feel if they were raped. Then, a few weeks ago, I was listening to the local news and I heard that an eighteen year old girl was raped in a crowded club here in Newcastle; an abundance of people inside, customers, staff bouncers… and it was barely covered. I wouldn’t have heard about it unless I was listening to the local news, which normally I never do. It wasn’t featured on the main news and I haven’t heard about it at all since. There were no cries for people to be shot from men on the internet; there were no exclamations of disgust at all… It was forgotten about.

This is what I’m talking about when it comes to feminism. I don’t really care about things like equal pay or anything like that. I care about people respecting other people’s bodies. That girl’s life was ruined too, she felt degraded, she is probably on medication for depression too – why was she not featured on the nationwide news, but the man who was raped was? What makes what happened to him more important than what happened to that young girl? Both were violated in the most abhorrent manner and were treated abominably, and I’m not trying to suggest that one is more important than the other, but both should have been given equal news coverage. Why wasn’t it? Because so many women have been raped by men or will be raped by men, it’s now old hat, doesn’t make good news so we don’t need to hear about it? It should ALL be featured on the news; we shouldn’t be teaching our daughters and nieces or any women how to not get raped, but we should be teaching everyone by any means necessary that everyone should respect one another. We are more than happy to pay for adverts and charities like Stoptober and review education on sexual health or alcohol etc, but why does no one mention in schools that people will get raped and teach both boys and girls to respect each other’s bodies from a very, very young age?

When I was little, both my parents, particularly my mother, were extremely worried about paedophiles and were terrified that my sister and I were going to get kidnapped. I remember a conversation with her where she said ‘if anyone asks you to get in their car so they can offer you sweets or show you some puppies, you run in the opposite direction, do you hear me?!’ and I remember thinking OH MY GOD, mam, you are SUCH a bitch, why do you want to RUIN MY LIFE?! THEY ARE TWO OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! (not really, I was like four, what is wrong with you?) and she told me that if anyone tried to touch me there I wasn’t to let them under any circumstances, which is probably why I was so confused about sex for so long, but never mind… I was taught from a young age that no one should touch me without my permission and that puppies and sweets were going to kill me. I wasn’t taught not to wear skirts and not to be confident in my body or anything like that – I was taught that I was the only person who had any say over my body. And as much as I am so grateful of my parents for teaching me this, that’s simply not enough, it’s not enough to teach people to respect themselves and that they’re the deciders, because what happens if someone chooses to disrespect you?

I was sexually assaulted when I was fifteen. An older boy locked me in a room, pinned me down and forced himself onto me and that is how I lost my virginity. I didn’t tell anyone for so many years and I choose to put it at the back of my mind because I was ashamed back then and I am still ashamed. Except now, I’m more ashamed that I didn’t kick him in his fucking teeth and say something. At the time, though, a fifteen year old girl being told that if I told anyone, no one would believe me because his dad is so high up in the police… It’s sickening and it has affected me in so many ways and made me scared of sex for years and years because I thought that because that something terrible that happened to me, meant that there was something wrong with me. This happens to so many women much more often than any of us know, because there are so many people manipulated into keeping quiet… And don’t get me wrong, I am more than abundantly aware that rape, sexual assault of any kind and domestic violence happens to men too, by members of both opposite and the same sex, but it just irks me that when people stand up for victims of sexual abuse on social media platforms, or even in real life, they’re given abuse and marked as a man hater, by men and sadly, women, because they don’t understand…Or they don’t care.

So, when I claim to be a proud feminist, this is why; because I feel like people who are against feminism are advocating rape and saying that it was my fault that I was assaulted and that when I’ve been groped in public or told to ‘cheer up and smile’ when I was suffering from depression so bad that I wanted to kill myself, or when I’ve been called a ‘fat bitch’ for turning down someone’s sexual advances, that I deserve that kind of abuse. Of course I don’t and no one else does either, no one should have to put up with that. No one should ever be assaulted or touched inappropriately whether they be a woman or a man; things like this are feminist issues, but it all ties in with a greater cause too: humanity’s issues – feminism is just another branch of something we are all a part of, and that’s something that people forget; we’re all people and we all need to be in it together in order for something to change.

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