Tag Archives: Emotions

Chapter Eight: Body Confidence and Me

Growing up, I had absolutely no issues with my image whatsoever; when my dad told me that Prince had written Most Beautiful Girl in the World about me, it was simply a given that he was absolutely and unwaveringly correct, so my incessant swaying whenever the song came on, purely made sense. I was thanking Prince through the method of sway-dance for writing a pretty accurate song about me. Every day, my parents would grab me in their arms, hug me and tell me that I was beautiful, something I accepted willingly – I guess I was really beautiful! I had no other means of comparing myself to anyone and I didn’t think of ever doing so and I don’t think that anyone ever compared themselves to me, it was just something that wasn’t done in the nineties, I guess; we spent more time playing games and deciding which Spice Girl we were, rather than worrying about who’s body was better than the rest. Truthfully, it took me a very, very long time to develop any form of body issues and think that it was my later teens that triggered the insecurities I cling onto now.

I was a teenager in the early 2000s and I’m not sure if something happened during this time that resulted in an entire generation of young girls suddenly loathing themselves, or if body confidence issues have been a popular bone of contention for every girl of every generation since the beginning and we were simply receiving the baton from those before us, but to me, it just feels like body confidence is a very modern issue affecting women these days and that my generation were truly the first to feel the bitter sting of self-doubt and loathing. I’m not sure about anyone else, but to me it felt like almost an immediate thing; one day I was simply me: a girl who wore clothes and did things with her time, wore shoes and sometimes wore a ponytail in her hair, and then all of a sudden, I felt that I was too tall, that my breasts were deformed; I felt dorky and plump, dreadfully awkward in my own too pale skin. I’m not sure where this idea came from, because I had gotten through the early part of my teenaged years quite easily and back then I had been covered in spots and my skin was greasier than a takeaway pizza, my limbs growing longer than the rest of me… I had no issues then. I still thought that I was simply a human, existing in society, maybe not the most beautiful girl in the world, because I found out that my dad liked to extend the truth a lot (like, who knew that dads didn’t give birth to boys?!), but I didn’t feel monumentally grotesque or anything else of the sort.

Growing up, role models were never really my thing and I never felt that I wanted to model my appearance on anyone in particular. There aren’t really many women from my childhood that I remember being obsessed with, other than potentially The Spice Girls as a collective and Ethel from The Worst Witch, who just so happens to play the bad witch making the protagonists life hell, but she wore really fierce boots and was top of her class at everything, a total teachers pet and I loved her. If you haven’t seen the film, you can find it all on Youtube and below is a picture of my favourite character from the movie:

Ethel_1986

In spite of all this, I didn’t emulate anyone in particular and this adoration of Ethel the bitchy witch didn’t extend further than asking my mam if I could have boots like hers for school… And I did:

1 worst witch phase

The same could indeed be said of my earlier teenage years; most of my heroes were male musicians from the punk scene or in some cases, incredibly pale, long haired, piercy blue eyes Finnish metal gods. I did love the screen sirens of times foregone, such as Doris Day, but not in the sense that I looked at my body and thought that I needed to change it, or that it was inadequate in some way. I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment, but it began to fester within me, I guess, when I started watching The OC. At the time, I’m pretty certain it was a cultural phenomenon and everyone was affected by it and loved it; I was so in love with Seth Cohen that I genuinely typed, Curly haired Jewish boys in Newcastle, into Google and hoped I would find him staring back at me with comic book t-shirts and great taste in music. When Anna was introduced, she could have been, arguably, the first person I ever wanted to emulate as a teenager. She was so cool and adorable; I cut my hair off to look just like her and for the first time, I began reading comics and fell in love with Betty White. All I really managed to do was look like a pixie boy and prove to people that I was a weirdo obsessed with old people, but she still embodied a lot of the characteristics I recognised in myself as a teenager at the time; I was quirky and wise beyond my years, or at least I thought so and her wardrobe was enviable to the point I began dressing like her too, much to the chagrin of my poor mother who had no idea what the fuck I was trying to accomplish.

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For me, I think college was the first step towards me becoming the big ball of insecurity and anxiety I am today. When I started college, my parents offered to buy me new clothes and whilst I was incredibly grateful for their offer, I really regret the entire day, even now. It’s one of those memories that burns in my subconscious like a perpetual, horrific flame intent on ruining my life. You see, my dad insisted on coming with me that day and he hates shopping. My dad insisted on coming shopping with someone who loved the likes of Topshop and complained at everything in there. I can’t remember where I shopped in the end, but I dragged him around the shops for far too long, until he and my mam began to tell me what college was really like, so I had a better grasp on what kind of fashion ensembles to purchase. Turns out my parents were remembering their college years in the eighties as though they had gone to college in America in the sixties and what I ended buying made me look like the perpetually bare foot, long haired, bearded, hand-held drum playing marijuana expert; I was basically dressed in a Jesus t-shirt and khaki green combat trousers that my parents insisted were super-duper cool and that’s why they weren’t in Topshop, but at the back of a shop AND ON SALE. I also ended up buying a turquoise blue golf inspired jumper with other golf related colours on, which I wore ON TOP OF a shirt with FLARED jeans. I am so ashamed to admit that, until I started my first day of college, I thought I looked okay.

On my first day, the entire college was awash with really attractive, well dressed individuals. Women who looked as though they’d been up for hours perfecting their hair and picking out all the right accessories to go with their skinny jeans, heeled boots and cinched at the waist by massive belt style tops. I wore pink trainers with cherries on them, flares and the dork ensemble that made me look less like Anna from The OC and more like my parents had banished me from our Amish camp because they heard me listen to rock music one time. I was mortified. Even more so when I saw that there were people wearing the band t-shirts I so desperately wanted to wear, with skinny jeans, Converse and studs. I owned pink Converse! I could totally fit in! All day, I internally cursed my stupid parents for having such an influence over my fashion choices, because of their free admission that I had shit taste in clothes. Now, I realise that we were partaking in the eternal struggle between teenager and parent and that, for the first time in history, parents won and I allowed myself to be controlled by their ridiculously misplaced love. Arseholes!

Eventually, I found my own style and wore a lot of brightly coloured tank tops with t-shirts underneath, a lot of black and I eventually started buying my own accessories that made me look like I was trying to perform an African wedding ceremony on a daily basis, but it still makes me think back with abject horror at how bad I looked, but I still had no real issue with my body. Just my fashion choices… Sorry, MY PARENTS FASHION CHOICES. I then developed a distinctively 60s style, but a better one that seemed to be because of my burgeoning obsession with Ms Edie Sedgwick, out came the dramatic eyes and the big old earrings… Gone was the dorky girl who listened to her stupid parents!

The first time I ever felt horrible about how I looked, I was going into Newcastle for a night out with my sisters and one of my nurse friends. I was wearing grey shorts with black tights and a black top that fastened at the top of my neck, for some reason, with a black cardigan (I always wear cardigans!) my hair was tied up and my makeup consisted of the white eyeshadow with black eyeliner as I was going through my Edie Sedgwick phase and bright red lips. I remember standing in front of my mirror looking at my ‘then’ ridiculously flat stomach, before turning my attention to my round, seemingly pert derriere and thinking I’M A FUCKING WHALE I HATE MYSELF. I cried my make-up off and made it clear to my sister and mother that I didn’t want to go. Unfortunately, my sister really did want to go, so I had no choice. So along I went, in the clothes that I hated, my make-up reapplied and I sipped a few cocktails. Eventually, we decided to go dancing and went to a bar I haven’t been in since. On our way out, something hit me on the top of the head and when my sister turned around to see blood pouring down my face like I’d just stepped off the Carrie set, she began pushing and screaming to get me to safety. Someone had dropped a glass bottle on me from upstairs and burst my skull open, as far as I was aware. I knew I didn’t want to go out.

1 head

Now, admittedly, when I don’t feel that I look okay and have anxious feelings about leaving the comfort of my home, I think back to that night and realise that it was karma. I did look fat, I did look hideous and I should never have left the house. A broken head was my punishment.

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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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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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The Time I Could Have Started My Musical Career, But Was Foiled By Everyone in Life Who Are Clearly Jealous of My Talent

When I was very young, I decided that I was going to be a very famous singer and actress. Passion set ablaze from the very first moment I saw Sandy from Grease emerge from good girl nerd into a tight pants wearing, big hair owning, pouty lipped smoking girl all the bad guys wanted, I made an important decision that that was going to be me. It was practically written in the stars from the moment I sat down in the cinema upon its re-release, to going home and bursting into tears when I realised that Danny and Sandy weren’t married in real life, because they were ACTORS. Grease had a profound effect on everything that I wanted to be in my future. If I was a 1950s mobster performing a poorly written soliloquy in front of the audience of my life, I would have said things like ‘actor, hmm… interesting…We’ll see, WE’LL SEE!!!’ before going off stage to plot my diabolical life plan.

Apparently, pretty much from birth, or so I’m told, I have always had a penchant for both dramatics and singing. When I was a toddler, I used to sing along to the Milkyway advert (the red car and the blue car had a race… Yes, I still know it, shut up!), up until the part where they couldn’t drive anymore because (queue small me standing in front of the TV, blocking everyone’s view, putting my face to my hands in order to convey the sheer upset and shock when I shouted…) ‘OH NO, THE BRIDGE IS OUT!’ and that, ladies and gentlemen, was my first public performance; in my living room, in front of my parents. As I grew a bit older, I was always picked in school plays to be the head angel in the nativity play, which I felt was a teacher’s nod to my scholastic aptitude of awesome and also the fact that everyone thought I was an angel (because let’s face it, I am). I was also once picked to be Mary, which was less glamorous because I didn’t have a staff of tinsel and also I was wrapped in swathes of what can only be described as a curtain from the 1950s (smelled that way too) and also because Mary has to be my least favourite biblical character. Mostly because even as a small child, the idea of someone lying to her husband about cheating on him by saying a deity impregnated her with his mind seemed a little far-fetched and also, she ruins Christmas for Joseph by making him travel round Bethlehem on Christmas Eve looking for an Inn. Like, seriously, Mary, why so selfish?

Because I was a girl, Disney movies played a huge part in my desire to be a singer and an actress, eventually becoming a princess like Belle, not even minding that I’d have to be kidnapped by a giant beast first, because, let’s face it, it’s sexy. I remember seeing Pocahontas and wishing I was an American Indian, minus all the suffering and just span and span around my living room singing Just Around the River Bend until I toppled backwards and knocked a load of washing off the corner of the sofa (where it was standing just a little too precariously, MAM, like some kind of set up to tell me off for spinning). I also spent a lot of time constructing huge, elaborate stories for my Barbies’ to partake in, with the help of my equally imaginative sister, who mostly tried to cause death when all I wanted was a peaceful family wedding followed by my favourite Barbie performing an a capella solo of her favourite song. Then, when we started going on family holidays and discovered the beauty of the karaoke, I took my performances to a new level. My mam has a cassette tape (yep) of me and my sister singing Mama by The Spice Girls and it is perhaps the greatest thing my ears have ever encountered; I even do the ‘Mama, I love you-oooo’ bit that Emma does, its sheer magic.

In hindsight, I should have perhaps encouraged my parents to sign me up for dance classes or singing classes, or acting classes or anything that allowed me to pursue something that I may not have had talent for, but showed increasing enthusiasm for. S Club 7 happened and I would spend hours in front of my open window with the lights on so I could see myself reflected in the window, dancing and singing along doing all the moves, Destiny’s Child would creep in there too, anything that involved excessive dance moves and kicking my legs above my head whilst my mam tried to do some form of house work around me was killer.

Suddenly, in the summer of 1999, my entire life changed. Britney Spears emerged into my life like a phoenix emerging from the ashes; Baby One More Time, became my JAM! I would make up dance moves and stick a straw behind my ear and I would just sing exactly like her and kick and prance around for my mam and show her just how great I was at singing and dancing and professed there and then that when I was older, I was going to be a singer, an actress and a dancer. I remember her smiling and laughing in agreement, like it was one huge joke, because she’s clearly foolish and didn’t want to live off my many riches that multitudes of MTV Awards would bring. GOD, MAM.

Eventually, I think she realised that I did, genuinely intend on becoming a singer, so much so that I would actually practice my pop star make up (always baby blue glitter and super pouty, shiny lips) and stand around practicing speeches and not doing my homework, so she sat me down and had a conversation about what I wanted to be when I was older (joke’s on her anyway, because you can’t *be* things these days and that is why I am not anything. Other than a failure. Which is her fault cos I could have been a famous singer by now. With seven breakdowns under my belt. Benefit of hindsight, eh, mother?!), and I told her outright that I wanted to be a singer, dancer and an eventual award winning actress.

“But you can’t be those things! Do you know how hard it is to be a singer? It’s not a career, sweetheart, it’s a hobby. You can’t be those things, pet.”

And that was it. She left me and I planned to run away, but I lived in Holland at the time and had nowhere to go, I mean, how would I get back to England and become the singer I wanted to be? I had no money and also no idea how to get to England from the south of Holland.

Anyway, you might be wondering, why is she bringing up this cruel and harrowing part of her life? Her dreams were crushed, she is but an empty shell of a human in comparison to who she could have been had her parents allowed her to pursue her life long dream! I know, right? Well, I bring this up, firstly, because I spent this morning listening to The Corrs and remembered that they were one of those people I would listen to and absolutely buzz off, but also because when I was at her house the other week, drunk on wine, I was singing with vigour reserved only for the truly pissed and she turned to me (equally pissed) and said ‘oh, you really can sing!’ and I think when our eyes met, we were both transported back to the time when she told me I’d never make it and part of me wanted to slap her and tell her that I totally could have done, but Brain was there and he would have needed too much context and after the preamble leading up to the slap, the moment would have gone and the slap would not have been as vindicating for me. So I decided to complain and write about how everyone ruined my life instead. Fuck you guys.

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Hi Tinkerbell, it’s me… The Writer.

This morning, at the crack of dawn, Brain left for London to go and see his final NFL game of the year. I, groggy and shivering from cold, took refuge in my bed and spent the next few hours having extremely odd dreams; you know the kind where you feel you’re awake, so anything remotely upsetting seems like it is happening really and you spend the rest of the day feeling a little unsettled, because the rational side of your brain tells you no, it’s just a dream, don’t worry. Then your conscience pips up with really? It certainly seemed real, are you sure your landlord didn’t walk into your bedroom and have a conversation with you this morning about being really ill? I know you don’t feel ill, but why else would he let himself into your flat? So, I spent a few hours waking up with a start and trying to get back into a peaceful slumber and every time, an unsettling this could be happening to me right now dream would rear its ugly head and mess my waking life up. One of which was a chance email from The Writer, prompting me to check a very old inbox… low and behold, there sat an unread email reading: Hi Tinkerbell. Oh God.

When I moved back to England with my family, I spent a few years of school having a certain degree of je ne sais quoi about me; I was English, had grown up in England, but had lived in the South of Holland for a few years and could speak fluent Dutch – if it hadn’t been for my inherent awkward, dorky, bookish ways, I could have been someone who capitalised on this and made herself a pretty interesting individual. The majority of people at my school got a bit bored of walking up to me and asking me if I would say certain words in Dutch (usually expletives) and I became a wall flower once more. Inevitably, I began appealing to the more arty type folks, the musicians and the people who wore floaty shirts, long cardigans with sleeves far too long for their arms – the types who would draw on their school bags and blazon their favourite bands on the front of their shirt, claiming to be their first and biggest fans. They were awesome people, don’t get me wrong, a crowd I fit in with quite well and still speak to regularly now and they opened me up to some experiences that I wouldn’t trade in for the world, both good and bad.

It was around this time I met The Writer. He is someone with whom I’ve always had an entirely platonic relationship with, and despite my irrevocable crush on him for about five and a half minutes, it’s something that I am eternally grateful for now. He was one of those kids who had the sheer poor luck of being at his most handsome during his teenaged years: Tall, creamy pale skin, the first of his age to have facial hair and someone who wrote poetry, who played guitar far superior to anyone else our age and also decided that he was going to write an Oscar winning film after seeing Titanic when he was a kid (didn’t we all, though?!). We gravitated towards one another because of our love of music; I was going through my Johnny Cash phase and was secretly hoping to be someone’s June Carter one day and when he first spoke to me – one Friday night that we all saved our lunch money for; a cheap litre bottle of cider we’d all share together, he sidled up beside me as I sat shivering on a wall, offering me his scarf. He smoked, so I declined because I didn’t want my mother to smell disgusting smoke and ground me, but our arms were touching and I felt warmer as a result so we simply sat and talked. There is no denying that The Writer was endlessly interesting; his love of poetry and classical literature was evident; he was someone, the first and only person in my friend group who I thought hmm… he is challenging. I didn’t feel smarter than him, I felt a little in awe of him.

As time went on, I realised he was arduous. I’ve always been a general good judge of character, but only when I realise someone is trying too hard to be a certain someone, or someone who holds a mirror up to society, purely to hide themselves; to fool others into thinking they are greater than they are and The Writer was someone who became obvious to me within a few weeks of our friendship. I realised quite quickly that he would build himself up by trying to belittle me. He knew I wrote and instantly attempted to tell me that my writing wasn’t good enough, I blogged, which he deemed bourgeois, predictable and a bastardisation of the written form. So when he sent me some of his work, I was nervous, I was tentative to read what I understood to be the greatest piece of writing I would ever read; I felt sad that nothing I would ever write in the future would feel even remotely as brilliant as what I was about to encounter. Heart beating, I opened the document and began reading… about five minutes later he asked me what I thought. I hated it. I was disappointed that I’d doubted my own writing, which at the time, and even now is nowhere near brilliant, but his writing was atrocious. He attempted to write about things he had no idea about; warfare, having emotionless, passionless sex with a woman in Paris, the curvature of a woman’s breast and the taste of her (metallic, empty… the lingering taste of those before her bitter on my tongue) It was inappropriate, awful and just… shit, really.

I told him that I didn’t like it and he hit the roof, he told me I wouldn’t know talent if it punched me in the face and refused to speak to me for years. Which was fine by me.

Since then, he has sent me emails out of the blue, discussing the tiresome nature of his life, how his creative process has been diminished by the mundane, that working in a call centre has crushed his soul. That the women he has been with have not satisfied his intellectual desires. He saw the movie Shame and sent me an email telling me that he resonated with Fassbender’s character so well that he genuinely thought someone had been taking examples of his life and used them; he felt creatively robbed, he said. He also sent me an extensive email late last year telling me that he wished he’d treated me with the respect I’d deserved, that he always treated me as though I wasn’t going to be as successful as him and because he knew I hadn’t achieved any form of writing success, he blamed it on himself. That his words had put me off writing and that my disliking his writing was as a result of knowing that my own attempts at literature would never make it… He’s a person so full of himself that I abhor him and enjoy him in equal measures; his own sense of entitlement, I guess, that he has a right to discuss my life as though he has any impact on it whatsoever is both annoying and hilarious in equal measures.

Today’s email was as melancholy as I’ve ever heard him, but it didn’t prompt me to write back words of encouragement. I was annoyed. He has just broken up with a girlfriend of his and quit his job as a result (my creativity needs to flow; working in a fucking call centre stifles my brilliance. I haven’t written a decent word in fucking years!), he was telling me that I know exactly how I feel, knowing how my creative process is constantly stifled, that blogging is a dull and futile attempt at getting exposure. That being so unsatisfied in life that I’ll never find satisfaction in a relationship, because ‘we’re both just too fucked up to be with anyone but each other’.

This email was dated four months ago, when I’d just started seeing Brain and even though it bears no relevance to me now, it is still annoying. It bugs me that his failings in life simply have to include me; that because he considers us kindred spirits that I consider my life a failure; that I can’t find joy in my writing or my relationship because I’m too internally fucked up. Does anyone else have this? Someone in their lives who insists on projecting their misery in order to make you share this? I’ve known people who’ve resonated with me when I’ve complained about him and it almost always tends to be people who’ve chosen a life of creativity, but it always seems that there’s a male/female struggle there too; that if the female is content, happy with her creative pursuits, doing well in some aspect of their life, the creative male becomes cantankerous, publicly agonising over his lack of success instead of just enjoying the creative process for everything that it is and can be. I guess to say it’s a regular thing between male/female dynamics is entirely wrong, because it will just be a tiny portion of people so insecure with themselves that they need to find company for their misery, but every example I’ve experienced has been, so I will state: I don’t think it’s a gender issue, per say. Perhaps… creative men are simply more fucking childish than the average m ale human.

I’m glad I didn’t respond. I think there’s a certain point in everyone’s life when they just need to realise that writing may not be the career they expect, but that writing shouldn’t have to be. Writing is a hobby and if you’re going to be a published writer, great, but surely the only way you get there is to write and write and write; my blog is full of terrible pieces of writing, my creative writing I am far too self-conscious and embarrassed about to share with people, which would be counterproductive if I ever expected to be published. I think that The Writer needs to cling on to me because he doesn’t understand me. I write for the pure pleasure of writing, I love surrounding myself with creative people so we can bounce off one another, learn from one another (whether that be writing or not, any creative pursuit) and bond given our similar passions. To use me as a metaphorical punching bag to highlight his own short comings is not the calling card of a kindred spirit, nor is it the basis on which friendships are made. The Writer proved himself to me within weeks of knowing him: He’s a fake and someone evidently so unhappy with himself that it makes him feel good and powerful to put others down. I don’t have time for people like that. I don’t have time to massage egos anymore.

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An Affair to Remember

 “Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories, and we’ve already missed the spring…”

An Affair To Remember is one of my favourite films. Whenever I feel sad or lonely, or even when I feel inexplicably happy or nostalgic, it’s the first thing I go to. When I talk about it, or even think about it, the tears pool in my eyes even if I just happen to think of just how happy that film makes me. It is one of the most important films in my life, something I always think of with warm, fond memories.

The first time I watched it was one ridiculously early Sunday morning, when I, still living at home, meandered downstairs, expecting to find remnants of the drunken night before that desperately needed cleaning up, but which I would happily ignore. Instead, I would curl up on the sofa, inviting both dogs: Homer and Arthur, my amazing old boxer men who are now no longer with us, up on the sofa for a forbidden cuddle (they weren’t allowed on the sofa unless mama was very drunk and feeling soft), which they both relished in. Homer would only cuddle on his terms, so I would have to invite him up onto my seat and I would have to sit next to him, burying my head into his soft, silky fur; he’d place a paw over my hand and drift off into a slumber that elicited soft, comforting snores in my ear. Arthur, desperate for any kind of affection, at any given time, would clamber onto me and fit in any spare part of the sofa, draping himself over me and burying his head into my nook or a body part that was particularly soft (usually my stomach) and we would lie there, happily, in silence, until someone else in the house woke up and disturbed our peaceful snuggles. This morning, however, it was my mama, who I found watching the end of a film I can’t remember; the living room was tidy and both dogs were laying on the floor in front of her snoring happily. They both lifted their handsome heads when I walked in, in a manner which I like to think of as disappointment, that their snuggles on the sofa weren’t going to happen this weekend… Sorry boys…

Both my mama and I made our way to the kitchen, where she made us both a cup of tea and I raided the cupboards for some kind of unhealthy, biscuit type snack, before making our way back to the living room. My mother and I, ever since I was little, have always shared a sofa, whilst my dad and sister always had their own seats. It’s not something I minded, because when I was younger, I would snuggle up beside her and lie on her tummy whilst watching television and as I got older, the tummy snuggles would only happen if I was feeling sad or very sorry for myself. Usually we’d both sit with our feet up, mine pushed against her thighs because of my lanky legs and hers sitting comfortably in front of me, because she’s tiny and perfect. This morning, we were sitting in this usual spot, drinking tea and absent mindedly watching the news when she turns and asks me if I fancy watching one of the Cary Grant films that I’d bought her as part of her birthday presents. We decided on An Affair to Remember and my love affair with this movie was encapsulated forever.

We sat in silence throughout the whole film, until the very end and the credits rolled; we turned to each other, emotions built up inside of us, desperate to escape and as our eyes made contact, we burst into tears.

“That was one of the best things I’ve ever seen in my life…” I sobbed.

I’m not sure if it was because of my love for Cary Grant, or my general obsession with great, dramatic love stories or even the fact that I’d watched it one Sunday morning with my mother; something we both shared and will always share together, but it has remained the most important movie in my life ever since.

Years later, I would be sitting in a cold house that bore no warm memories; somewhere I hated, but simply resided and I would turn to the person I’d been seeing for a couple of weeks and I’d say,

“I’ve always wanted this, look. It’s from one of my favourite movies, but it’s just so expensive!”

He would respond with something relatively nonchalant, presumably what is this monstrosity, it’s a picture of two people kissing… what’s so great about that?

And a few weeks later, when I’d moved into my brand new flat with the help of said human, I’d be sitting at his parent’s house and in he’d walk with a delivery from somewhere, which he had bought me, as a house warming gift.

It was what I’d told him I’d wanted. A vintage film poster of An Affair to Remember, the film that brings me to tears at the very thought of it. Naturally, I cried my eyes out; I’d never received a present so thoughtful, or so important. I had already fallen in love with him at this point, because it’s pretty hard not to, but I think that moment in particular made me realise that I never want to be a part from him. It’s just a poster, get a life… Yeah, I know, but it’s pretty indescribable; I had longed for that movie poster in my life for years and years and in one moment of simple internet browsing, during the stages in our relationship where we were just getting to know each other, he remembered and bought me it.

If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about two people who shouldn’t have met. They met per chance one evening when she’d found his cigarette case and after that they spent their entire cruise back to America with one another. It wasn’t sexual, it wasn’t even romantic, nor did it elude to romance… it was two people who were getting to know each other. They met by chance, by a simple mistake and then they got to know each other more than anyone else had gotten to know them before; it’s love in its most simple and important form and I think that’s why it resonates so deeply with me.

It’s no secret that I am a raging lover of romance; I love romance. Flowers, chocolates, being wined and dined, things I’d never experienced until Brain came into my life, but things I desperately wanted – I just wanted to be loved and for me, that movie encapsulates exactly what love is about. It’s not about what you look like or how much you weigh, or if you have the right boobs or clothes… it’s about getting to know someone inside and out, it’s spending eight hours on the sofa, doing nothing but staring into each other’s eyes. It’s corny, it’s simple and it’s beautiful.

I wasn’t supposed to meet Brain. I’d accepted a job somewhere I can’t even remember when I received a phone call inviting me for an interview one Tuesday morning. I didn’t know if I could accept, because I was supposed to start a job on Monday, but I did any way… just in case. Turns out, my first day on this job was awful, so awful that my dad text me half way through and said ‘Get up out of your chair and just walk out. Say anything you want, just go.’ And I did. The next day I went to an interview and a few weeks later, after an email I’d sent thanking them for an interview (an email I can’t remember sending), I received a phone call inviting me to start the next day. And on my first day, my managers introduced me to people in the office and then introduced me to Brain; he was wearing a Bob Dylan t-shirt and shook my hand, looking all tall and shy (and bearded) and I thought to myself ‘shit…’ and well… I guess the rest is history, as they say.

So now, as you may have guessed An Affair to Remember reminds me of Brain. He reminded me that love is so important and that it’s not just as simple as being with someone for a long period of time and eventually saying it because you feel you have to, but not really feeling it. After my first date with Brain, I closed my door and I actually swooned because I’d totally fallen head over heels in love with him. And when I opened that poster and I realised that he’d remembered something I said completely innocuously, not at all expecting him to even remember, never mind buy me it… It just made me realise that I am going to be with this person for the rest of my life. He loves me and every time I look at the poster, pride of place in my living room, I remember just how he was looking at me when I opened that present. He’s the love of my life and I am so lucky that I accidentally found him too.

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My Vagina is a Mood Ring.

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You know those people who categorise people into two sections: Those who follow their heads and those who follow their hearts? I don’t believe in it. My head is far too fucked up from all of my anxieties and general bizarre self-esteem issues to be a reputable decision maker and all my heart does is flutter about thanks to my bearded male human / Ryan Gosling / Shoes, so if I were to rely on them for anything, I’d get nothing done. The rest of my body is hopeless as they are all crippled with lack of confidence and tend to only thing about meal times with any resemblance of vigour. No, the only rational part of my body is my vagina. She’s the part of the body that says things like ‘look here, see? We’re gonna do this thing and we’re gonna be great at it, see? I’m taking the wheel head, shut up heart! I’m the boss now, see?’ because I think she might be a 50s American gangster and a bit of a control freak.

She makes all of my serious decisions for me. Like, do I want to have sex today? Should I eat mackerel for lunch? Is it wrong to want to drink prosecco at midday on a Wednesday? My vagina has said yes to all but one of these answers, which means she is a genius and I should refer to her more for serious life decisions as well as smaller, less important daily decisions. I simply can’t trust my head to make these decisions. If I asked my head if I wanted to have sex today she would stand me, naked in front of the mirror, noting my rolls and scars, the fact that my legs don’t have a thigh gap and almost vomit at the sight of how pasty white I am and decide that no, no I don’t want to. I should take a duvet and fashion a mu-mu out of it and hide myself forever. If I ask my heart if I want to have sex, she will probably say yes, in all fairness, so she’s an unreliable example. But she would probably take the side of my head and think ‘what if the beard thinks you look disgusting with all your rolls and paleness?’ and I’d be back sewing a mu-mu with faux-fur lining for the winter.

Do any of you feel that your vagina is the one who makes all of your decisions? The one who guides you towards positive and healthy life choices? Mine doesn’t tend to do the healthy life choice thing very much as she is pretty focused on sex and wine, but at the same time, sex is exercise and wine is grapes, thus fruit, so really she’s a fucking genius. I think we need to take more time out of our lives to thank our vaginas from keeping us entirely from going insane thanks to our supposed leaders in thinking; brains and aortic pumps. So, I’d like to take a moment to raise my glass and say cheers to my vagina for being an awesome, bitchy control freak. Thanks lassy xx

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How Ryan Gosling Rescued My Sex Life:

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I’m seventeen and since my first time, I have had zero more times; I haven’t kissed another human and haven’t really had any crushes since then either. The ones I did have seem more like an attempt at paraphrasing another person in my peer group; agreeing that he was worthy of a crush after she enthusiastically revealed her unbidden, unrelenting passion for some dweeb who played guitar. I was at college and had made new friends, I had discovered writing about my passions and devoured William Blake and Jeffrey Chaucer like it all truly meant something to me. To this day, I cannot remember anything other than in The Bard’s Tale when the cuckold got his revenge by sticking a hot poker up someone’s arse, but at the time both that and Songs of Innocence and Experience resonated deep within me. I was very pretentious, but still also entirely unrealistic about everything life had to offer me… including literature, it seems.

I had received a laptop that Christmas and because I could use Google in the privacy of my own bedroom, I’d become quite the researcher. I’d come to terms with what had happened to me and since then, watched The Notebook religiously because I felt that Ryan Gosling wouldn’t let anything like that happen to me. I’d also discovered that rape happened to a lot of women and that everyone had their own ways of dealing with it and overcoming the feeling of worthlessness; I had simply chosen to bury it deep within my mind grapes and move on with life in my own way. I had discovered blogs and discovered a woman who wrote so casually about sex that it hardly seemed like the horror show I’d experienced, but something more, something pleasurable and freeing. I discovered dominatrices and the men they belittled, but who seemed to love it… I had my own sexual awakening through absorbing all of the knowledge that I was reading from the internet and putting it all into some kind of bizarre perspective; sex was okay and I should not spend my life refraining from it because I was afraid of what might happen. It was also during this time I discovered masturbating and pleasuring myself with my hands, which is something I’d never really thought of doing, but, upon having my first orgasm, realised it was something I’d been doing since I was very small in a game I used to play that caused my parents to shout at me and tell me to stop… Now I know why. I finally decided that sex wasn’t bad and that I should remove all bad thoughts from my mind and proceed with life like a true seventeen year old.

I had one crush at college. I had decided he looked like Chad Michael Murray and as someone who had never seen One Tree Hill but had seen A Cinderella Story, I decided that he was my romantic mecca and that eventually we would marry and I’d watch him play rugby on weekends. Nothing ever happened with this person, he spoke to me once and that was to thank me for opening a door and because I had truly entered my awkward phase and was still entirely uncertain what to do in situations that involved male humans, I simply turned and faced the wall behind me. That was the last time he spoke to me. I spoke to him once after at a college party. I was hammered and decided I was going to make my move. He was wearing a bowler hat and looked like a dick, but I couldn’t let one bad fashion choice ruin what could potentially be The Greatest Love of All. He was smoking a cigar and he tried to stub it out, but burned my hand instead and it was in that moment I decided that I wasn’t ready for a relationship where burning seemed an appropriate thing to do to a woman, accidentally or not.

It was back to the drawing board and, of course, Ryan Gosling helped me during this difficult time and my obsession grew. Realising that I couldn’t very well develop a non-existent relationship with a human very much out of my league and whom I would never have a chance with even if I did by some miracle end up a famous actress playing opposite him in a film that required the sensual removal of some nude stockings (what?!), who wouldn’t find me as attractive as I would him. Presumably because I’d be crying and drooling over his general magnificence/beard.  I used social media a lot to emphasise how ready I was for love by posting lyrics from angsty, indie bands and filling out online quizzes, taking particular care at how funny and girlfriend-material I was, even though I’d never been a girlfriend so I didn’t know. I didn’t manage to attract the attention of anyone at all, even though I happily Myspace friended everyone in the North East.

I did, however, hang out with a good friend of mine every Wednesday instead of going to English Language class (phonetics? No thank you!). He went to a nearby college and would pick me up so we could hang out at his house; we’d watch really old movies and occasionally share a joint, chatting a lot and then I’d leave, so I could get home in time to pretend I’d actually been at college learning all day and not sitting watching shit on tv and indulging in illegal activities with a very short human my mother didn’t much like. It was during one of these Wednesdays that I turned to my friend and said, quite simply:

“Would you like to have sex with me?”

Given that he knew what had happened to me and had known me rebuff every single one of his attempts at flirting since we met at the age of fifteen, he was undoubtedly shocked. But, at seventeen, I was quite adorable, my hips and breasts hadn’t quite exploded to the size they are now and wouldn’t for two years (puberty rather than obesity), but I had mousy brown hair and massive blue/green eyes and my glasses made me look geeky, but not so much that I became hideous. Naturally he said yes and I informed him that it was for research purposes only. We shook hands and made our way to his bedroom.

Sex was okay. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t horrible. I didn’t really enjoy having sex with this person, but would for a few weeks before dropping off the face of the earth in pursuit of someone else to explore my sexuality with. Foreplay was non-existent and I never came. Also once the condom got stuck inside of me and I had some kind of emotional breakdown that my skin would grow around the condom and eventually I would have to have it removed because the growth inside me got too big; I’d have to give birth to it and the doctor would frown and chastise me for being so careless with a condom. Anyway, it put me off condoms and this person quite grotesquely and that was that.

My sexual exploration also never really took off the ground as much as I would have liked it to and truth be told, I didn’t actually achieve orgasm with another human until I was twenty three, which seems really unfair, but also perhaps because my vagina eventually thought OH MY GOD, I am so sick of her prodding and poking, let’s just give her an orgasm and maybe she’ll stop! Which I can imagine her doing because she’s a bit of a bitch. I was using sex toys during this stint, which seemed to be the only way I could achieve orgasm for a very, very long time, which is probably why I hold them in such high esteem now.

In a way, Ryan Gosling did save my sex life and I think it’s probably because his beard is just too damn sexy to resist. The Notebook also acts as a kind of cathartic piece of cinema because it reminds me of being a young girl so desperate to fall in love and experience waking up with someone who looked at me as though I were the only girl in existence to evoke any form of passion in their heart, but then also that, after many, many, tearful afternoons of watching Gosling FINALLY get the woman that he wanted, that it was something that would eventually happen and as a result, I would have to stop fearing sex and embrace it.

I’m not trying to justify or defend what The Scumbag did, but in a way, it did shape who I am today and my sex life and how open I am about discussing it and how truly important I think it is, stems from that one horrible experience; it made me who I am today and even though it was a terrible experience, I have moved on from it and become the Doris we all know and love (and loathe) today!

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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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This is a Tribute… Of Sorts.

In the past year, my life has changed completely and I’ve spent a lot of this week reflecting on how different my life is now to what it was twelve months ago. I know a lot of people say this, but then their lives haven’t changed at all… My life really has, in every aspect, changed.

Last year, I was the unhappiest I have ever been. I spent the majority of my year being bullied, belittled and treated like I wasn’t even human. I was living with someone I had spent half a decade with and, to be quite frank, we didn’t like each other. We were in a situation where we felt like we had been together for so long, that we should just ride it out, that one day it may get better. We were in an environment where people were with partners they didn’t get on with or like; that common interests weren’t necessary and that lads nights out with girls in short dresses all over the place was acceptable, whilst the women stayed at home; mutual happiness wasn’t important and male feelings/thoughts/opinions prevailed. My partner’s mother decided that she no longer liked me and began heinous and vicious rumours, she attacked my mother at the local Tesco and put so much pressure on my partner, that he would then treat me like shit because he felt so rubbish; he didn’t want to ‘do as mammy said’, but he wanted me to change who I was and just toe the line, allowing my life to be controlled by a vapid, evil woman who thinks that her children are simply bank accounts she can bleed dry so she can keep getting her hair extensions and botox. It led to me being isolated, treated viciously and becoming a shadow of my former self; in short, my partner thought he was better than me and thought so low of me that he genuinely thought I considered myself lucky to be with him. I didn’t leave because I’d invested so much time and money into the relationship and, to be frank, was treated so poorly that I really did think I was unattractive, horrible and undeserving of happiness. It was during this time that I actually thought out, planned and attempted to kill myself. The only reason I didn’t was because my sister randomly text me one day to tell me that she loved me. She is the reason I’m here and I guess, I owe my current happiness to her too.

Eventually, my ex simply didn’t come home one night and I realised that he never would. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t upset… I was. But, I’ve come to realise it wasn’t because I loved him and missed him, but because it kind of reiterated how much better than me he thought he was. That all the suffering I had faced at the hands of his vicious and vile mother was all for nothing; that had he left me when his mam told him too back in March last year, I would have never been in a position where I wanted to kill myself. I was angry, I was hurt and I was totally lost – I had no job, no money and was left in so much debt that only accumulated because he had left me with every single bill to pay, whilst he fled. I had been left in an enormous problem and it kind of just reiterated how little this person I had spent five years of my life with thought of me. It did affect me… but not for the reasons most people feel when they break up. I was relieved, but simply depressed at how terrible my life had become. I didn’t think it would get better.

Because I didn’t have a job, I spent every single day and night alone. If my dad didn’t come to pick me up on a Friday, I wouldn’t  see a single soul. It made me terribly agoraphobic and terrified of the outside world. I can’t really blame any friends for not wanting to see me during this time, because I really did isolate myself quite a bit, but it would have been nice even to just get an email or text off someone just inviting me somewhere, even if I didn’t go… Anyway, this lasted for months and months. I didn’t really start to feel happy again until this year and I can pinpoint the who, what and where, so to speak, of when I became happy again:

My girls:

I began blogging at the start of 2014 and decided to use Twitter as a means of marketing myself and communicate with pretty much anyone, so that I didn’t feel so alone. It worked and before long I had begun communicating with a few people and basically just, very slowly, making myself feel better through my passion – writing. Eventually, I got in touch with one of my Twitter followers, a fellow blogger and general awesome human, Rachel. We had some excellent back and forth, we call each other Eddie and Patsy (I am, naturally, Patsy!) and eventually exchanged numbers and became friends. She had a blogging event which was only my second time out of the house alone since summer 2013; I went completely alone and only knew Rachel, who was hosting the event and thus not really available to sit next to me and protect me from freaking out, so I had to face the event entirely alone and speak to humans I didn’t know. Luckily, the event was filled with wonderful women and I had a really lovely time. Not too long after that, I began tweeting with other women, who have since become my best friends, my support network and my favourite women. These girls are: Mungle, Sian, Em, Marie, Amy, Becky and Leona  and they have literally changed my life; they took the sadness and the loneliness away with every single hilarious tweet and later, Whatsapp messages. They were the first people I spoke to on a morning and every single one of them were there if I needed someone to talk to, so even when I spent every single day by myself, they were there for me and took the loneliness away. For the first time in many, many years, I had true friends. They are my best friends and I love them so, so much. I don’t think they know just how much they have helped me, but if they’re reading this, I guess now they do. They’re my women and I never want to lose them.

My Sister:

When my relationship was ending, she was embarking on a new relationship, so wasn’t really there for me as much as I would have liked and when we did see each other, I tried really hard not to be depressed and anxious as I was feeling so that she would come back and not think of me as this huge drag, making her new and happy relationship seem unimportant in comparison. She was happy and I was very pleased for her; so my feelings didn’t matter. Ironically, she became really depressed earlier in the year (yes, it runs in our family, we’re a BLAST) and, because I am her big sister and eternal protector from any sadness, I was there for her and we helped each other get through the day. We’d spend days lying in bed watching Friends or we’d go on long drives to the countryside listening to Disney songs and we eventually got ourselves into a routine where life didn’t seem as painful or as bad any more. We became closer as a result and even as I’m writing this, she’s sat on my sofa watching Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and doing artwork. Just being around her makes my anxieties disappear and, although she will never know that she is the reason that I didn’t kill myself, I think she knows just how much I need her.

Brain:

I can pinpoint the exact moment when my life changed; when anxieties and sadness no longer mattered, when my general bitterness towards life and what happened to me dissipated and that was, quite literally, the moment I met Brain. I’ve never been the type of person to believe in things like love at first sight or anything as corny as that, but I was pretty besotted with him as soon as I met him. When I got home after my first day of work, I sent the girls a Whatsapp message about my first day and told them all about this human who I’d met. “He was wearing a Bob Dylan t-shirt… AND HE HAS A BEARD!!” we began chatting and realised we had everything in common and it became one of those ridiculously inappropriate crushes that school girls have: He actually gave me constant butterflies. Obviously, we eventually got together and now spend every day together; he is the love of my life. I say that with no concerns or doubts that he isn’t, it’s just one of those facts like when someone asks what day it is, you say Wednesday with no doubt in your mind. He’s my male human and I love him with all of my heart. He doesn’t treat me like he thinks he’s better than me, he doesn’t disappear for days on end or manipulate or treat me like my feelings and opinions don’t matter. He respects and adores me and being with him just feels natural and right. He has taken away every ounce of anxiety that I’ve had and when I feel down or anxious he doesn’t blame me or say it’s because I’m horrible; he hugs me and talks through every aspect of why I feel down and how we, as a team, can make it so I don’t feel bad any more. He makes me laugh and being around him is perfect; I feel like we’re meant to be and I know that sounds so stupid, but I do. He supports my writing, reads my blog and tells me how great he thinks I am every day… he’s my human, as I said. I love you, Brain, with my entire aortic pump.

My Home:

I moved three months ago to a new flat, devoid of any bad memories or feelings. I was able to start a complete fresh and forget about the shit times I had in my former home. Brain and I have created an amazing home where we both live (yes, after a few months we moved in together… It wasn’t a conscious decision, but as with everything about Brain, it just felt right to have him here all the time, so he resides here now too!) and we have become closer. It’s an amazing flat that I love so, so much. The walls are lined with things that are personal to us; Our main feature wall has two movie posters, Pillow Talk and An Affair to Remember that Brain bought me as a moving in present (back when he didn’t initially live here!) and a small, framed picture of our mutual love, Mr Bob Dylan. We have superhero merchandise littered around and photos of us and family. We have a small addiction to candles, so naturally they’re prevalent and book cases and movies, guitars and games consoles too. When people visit they fall in love because it really is a quirky home that no one, other than two people who have everything in common could create together. Brain’s sister called me his dream girl, because he can fill his home with enormous posters of Batman and I enthusiastically participate in fawning all over it, because I’m a total geek at heart too.

There are other things that make me blissfully happy, but I think these are the main factors. I am no longer sad, I no longer self-harm or think about killing myself. I’ve come a long way from the fat, unhappy, agoraphobic loner that I was literally this time last year. There are parts of my life that I am unhappy about and I do have moments where I just want to curl up and cry, but I guess everything pales in comparison when you have people in your life who make you feel important and who would miss you if you were no longer there. I spoke to my mother about this the other day and she said that I was a shadow of my former self, that her happy, confident and beautiful girl was back and that I was no longer filled with bitter or angry thoughts and that when bad things or things I didn’t like happened to me, I would brush it off with a comedic quip and just get on with it. It’s nice that people notice that I’ve changed and it’s even nicer knowing that there are very, very important people in my life who have made me this way. If you’re still reading, girls or Brain (my sister doesn’t read my blog): You guys are my everything, my happy place, the loves of my life. I love you all so much and I am so grateful that you are there for me, that you laugh when I tell shit jokes and that when I need you you’re there. I’ve never felt important before, but you all make me feel important and you make me feel happier about myself. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if you guys weren’t there anymore. Love you all forever, I promise. xx

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