Love/Hate/Tinder

People who are married, or in long term relationships, tend to have this very specific look when the topic of modern dating springs up. It’s this strange mix of sympathy, curiosity and horror. And I don’t blame them: dating right now is probably the most difficult thing ever in the whole entire world. I mean, I seriously love to exaggerate- but this is no exaggeration. It’s some sort of insane minefield which nobody is ever quite able to navigate- **with the one and only exception** of those people who are somehow in a relationship with someone they found on Tinder. Which is incredible to me- I cannot bloody believe it. Hats off to them, because these people are like modern day Romeo and Juliet’s- if Romeo had the choice of idly swiping through swathes of women to get to his one true love, or vice versa, because feminism. If I’m honest, I hate the app and I think it is the work of Satan (although sometimes if you go to another city the boys are really, really hot).

This hatred isn’t unfounded, I have been on about 10 Tinder dates, and all of them have been equally as traumatising as the last. Off the top of my head, one of the guys had all of his pictures taken from below so he was actually a foot shorter than me when he arrived. He also didn’t take his hat off the whole time, and didn’t ask me any questions!!! Imagine someone just talking about their band and how much they love Radiohead for 2 whole hours- I was honestly dumbfounded, because I don’t like talking about music that sad old men masturbate to in a darkened room. So I lied and said I had to get my last train at 8.35pm. As one last ditch attempt at salvaging the evening, he later texted to tell me he ‘had a nice time bro’. Honestly, may our lord Jesus Christ have mercy, because I didn’t know we were still saying “bro”, especially to people with VAGINAS. I have repressed a lot of other Tinder date memories because they are equal parts woeful and distressing, however I basically do feel like the internet is an apocalypse and true love has died, only to have been replaced by a ‘u up?’ DM on Instagram at 1.46am on a Sunday Morning.

For this reason, I have 100% swiped my last swipe- but also because I do not have enough memory on my phone for this empty, soul sucking app. Although in renouncing Tinder, I’ve gotten to wondering how people ever manage to go on a date without it! None of my friends are in relationships because they are all narcissists (kidding, sorry I’m just making a joke guys), so I can’t even ask them how they met their lovers or significant others. I think people only really meet in work or school or by smiling at each other on trains? I can’t really say for sure though, this is purely speculative. I guess people used to speak to one another on long journeys on public transport, like in that fucking boring movie Before Sunrise. But now everyone is too busy reading erotic e-novels on their phones or browsing niche websites for handmade crockery. Okay probably not, but still, the vast majority of people don’t talk like they used to. If a strange person comes up and talks to me I know I would rather be sitting by myself thinking about periods and feminism and listening to music. I guess if you were bored you might want to speak to more people and then you might fall in love and feel fulfilled in a very traditional sense. But god doesn’t that sound boring and let’s be honest, it’s a lot more fun reading erotic e-novels :))

As a brief summary: love is dead, tinder sucks, guys are dicks, & don’t watch Before Sunrise. Although don’t take this too seriously- all the planets are in retrograde and I really just don’t have my shit together right now lmao x

***Off the Sauce***

 

‘What do you do in your spare time?’ It’s a bloody dull question, but one that seems to crop up a lot in the process of “getting to know people” (something which I personally, avoid like the plague).

I’ve really got to rack my brains when someone asks me this. I suppose I’d really like to love climbing hills or being out and about in nature (but I don’t even know how to access nature? Like seriously do you just turn up at some random hill…? IDK!). I used to read a lot too, but this has slowly been replaced by the mind numbing cycle of scrolling through Instagram and Facebook. I don’t even have the excuse of having some “nice-guy” boyfriend who I can go on lovely day trips and watch French art house cinema with (which let’s be honest, is 22% pretending to understand and 78% pretention).

Nope I suppose the only thing I can say with absolute certainty that I end up doing every weekend without fail is drinking! That is literally how I spend my free time, and it’s so depressing to think about. I’m a 21st century cliché- a single girl who likes a laugh and 12 million glasses of wine: a real Bridget Jones type!

And I used to love it, I had a lot of fun, I am a fantastic dancer and this is only amplified after having a couple on a Saturday night. But like anything which one finds enjoyment in life, this has inevitably lost its initial, fun appeal. I am bored of waking up the next day with a hangover and eating my body weight in Super Noodles (ok maybe not of Super Noodles because I freaking LOVE THEM!!). But in all seriousness, I feel like I am wasting away my whole life and health and money. Seeing as I am a young adult professional with a whole two days of weekend to fritter away- what can one do that doesn’t involve alcohol?

I remember last year when I attempted the classic Sober October (my Everest). I started off really well- I was loving it. I was bouncing off the walls with my new found health and vitality. I would go to a bar with my friends and order a coffee- very continental! But about half way through the month this weird peer pressure thing started. IDK if it is just Scotland, IDK if my friends are boozebags, IDK if I have the willpower of a tiny ant (probably the latter)- but literally after a while it felt like I was breaking some sort of weird social taboo by not drinking. People would give subtly funny looks, and you kind of start to wonder if maybe you actually aren’t fun without a drink. I mean is alcohol the secret to alcholols ?!!?! (sorry, that was a horrible pun). But in all seriousness it kind of feels like If you’ve set yourself up as someone who drinks and loves a party, then it’s almost impossible to then turn around and suddenly become Maria from the convent. Maybe this is purely psychological on my part, and I am simply a neurotic idiot who can’t say no. As the problem remains that I am a very restless person, and I suffer greatly from FOMO, and also how in the heck else will I ever meet the man of my dreams if I am not totally WREKT at 3am outside a club? I suppose the dreaded answer to these questions is trying to be a fun cool person who is confident all the time. And as someone who is very socially anxious that is a quite terrifying thought. I have a terrible blush reflex and a bad habit of forcing laughter even if I didn’t hear what the person said in the first place. But that is part of growing up and being an adult and learning to live with yourself. And once you get past the student stage it’s probably about learning that life isn’t always some giant party (at least not in the crazy way). Now as a 22-year-old, I feel significantly more mature than I did six months ago all the way back in October. I have morphed from an anxious grasshopper into a slightly larger, anxious grasshopper. And so I would like go ahead and officially proclaim that I am off the sauce, turning my life around, reading books, trying to find cool hobbies, trying to get along with everyone in my life, trying to be amazing at my job, trying not to be an idiot. Wish me luck.

 

 

Who’s Afraid of Vaginas?

Pussy, fanny, foof, flower, whatever you call it, it’s a part of us that is often kept under wraps. Seeing a pair of boobs on screen (even if those pesky nipples remain censored) is now a common occurrence, but representations of actual real-life vaginas are few and far between. As a result, there has arisen a skewed and unrealistic expectation for both women and men of what to expect from lady parts, and as a sexual organ, their only consistent representation is in porn.

Now we’ve all watched it in some capacity, and I’m stating the obvious when I say that porn vaginas are super-weird and un-vagina-ey (no offence porn ladies). But as a young girl, I stupidly thought, this must be what everyone looks like apart from me. I freaked out. I sat on the toilet with a pair of scissors and thought about cutting my labia off. I imagined what a perfect and lovely sight my new vagina would be to behold, and I honestly I thought it was a really good idea for 3 whole minutes. I then realised it was actually really stupid because I would literally bleed to death clutching these tiny severed flaps of skin in my cold, dead hands. Being the logical young woman that I was (still am) I set to work, seriously looking into labiaplasties. This was the more sensible, medically sanctioned option, in which my vagina would begin to resemble more closely the only other ones I’d seen before, both on the internet and in sex ed. I settled in my head that once I got a proper job, the labiaplasty would be how I would resolve all of my issues: I would finally get a boyfriend and get married and rose petals and rainbows would follow me wherever I went. For years I had the thought looming in the back of my head, and was very self-conscious about it.

Reflecting on it now, I thought those thoughts were just the consequence of me being an insecure teenage girl and nothing more. However, then this this video cropped up on reddit. Although it’s from 6 years ago, it spookily validates my experience in a weird way- and I’m sure loads of other women’s too. The video explains that in Australian soft porn, any vagina that is considered to be ‘non-discreet’, i.e. if the labia hang down, must be censored and airbrushed because of legislation enforced by the advertising standards agency. The idea of a ‘non-discreet’ vagina covers labia that either protrude excessively, or are overly pigmented. These qualities are deemed ‘offensive’. As a result of legislation like this, more women are pushed into thinking that their vaginas are abnormal. And aside from the graphic footage of a woman’s labia being shaved with a scalpel, (or the term ‘discreet vagina’) what I find more disturbing, is the image of some creep airbrushing and photoshopping female genitals (possibly the most gross word ever, but weirdly appropriate here) until nothing but a so called “single crease” remains.

I don’t know if anyone’s vagina actually looks like this (there isn’t anything wrong with it!), but to me this is one of the more perverse and insidious ways which women are taught to devalue and even fear their bodies. I’m not saying this is a problem experienced solely by women – simply that this overt censoring of the female body, to the point which many women feel their own vaginas to be abnormal, and that their only viable “solution” is surgery, is a disturbing consequence of our societal pursuit of “perfection”.  If we’ve managed to at least begin to make in-roads into rejecting an unrealistic one-size-fits-all, Barbie-doll aesthetic when it comes to our bodies, then why are we still expected to aspire toward this when it comes to our pussies?

The media sometimes shows a variety of body shapes and types – and it has become clear that diversity is the order of the day when it comes to what many women, want to see. Do all bodies look the same? No. So it’s obvious that an uncommon, unrealistic and frankly unattainable ideal has attracted a degree of backlash. Yet this backlash hasn’t extended to below our waists. Why should it? It’s not like women sit around discussing their foofs the same way they might with other, more visible body parts.

For centuries the norm has been to ignore it – we all know we have one, so why can’t we leave it in peace? But when people start to regulate and censor, portraying a new normal which doesn’t exist (THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A “NORMAL” VAGINA!) then a dialogue needs to begin. But if mainstream images are manipulated, when do women ever get to see normal diversity?

From a more official stance rather than my wild and disturbing anecdote, according to the NHS website, a labiaplasty costs between £1,000-3,000 and cites that:

‘It’s natural and normal for a woman to have noticeable skin folds around her vaginal opening and, in most cases, this shouldn’t cause any problems.

A labiaplasty can be expensive and the operation carries a number of risks. There’s also no guarantee you’ll get the result you expected, and it won’t necessarily make you feel better about your body.’

Despite this advice- which seems discouraging whilst perhaps acknowledging the fact that many women who desire these surgeries aren’t entirely sure of their own anatomy- the number of labiaplasties performed on the NHS was cited to have risen 5 fold over the past ten years.  And the number of these surgeries performed even significantly surpassed the butt lift in America in 2015 . Many surgeons have cited the reasons for these surgeries being performed either as insecurity stemming from pornography, or lack of education as to what is or is not normal.

This marks another instance of inadequate education, or people being afraid to discuss natural bodily functions leading to girls feeling insecure about their bodies. And so the problem is being perpetuated by a number of institutions, and the lack of clarity surrounding these issues intensifies. Without women’s contributions, and proper education, these patterns will repeat themselves, and more women and girls will continue to turn to more drastic measures in an attempt to adhere to this societally constructed notion of beauty. Which is so stupid, because honestly vaginas are really lovely, the way they are. So please if you are reading this, don’t cut off your labia! (esp not with unsterilized scissors whilst sitting on the bog!)

Going it Alone

Not so long ago, I took myself out on a date, because…why the heck not?! I entered the restaurant, the waiter looked and me and smiled, he asked ‘Table for two?’, and I said ‘No it’s just me tonight’, in this very coy way, like a war widow in an old film, or someone who is really, really lonely and has lost the plot. So anyways, I went to my table for one and I didn’t have to wait for anyone else to choose what they wanted (because I am a very quick reader and can decide almost instantly) and I just went for it and I thought about some really nice stuff and I just drank my wine and that was all that happened. AND it was probably the best date I’ve ever been on! The food was great, the company was sublime, nobody was annoying or rude (well that’s not strictly true, because I am really annoying even inside my own head) – what wasn’t to love? It was probably better than every single date I have been on this year combined and I am not even slightly exaggerating. I felt very modern, like a high powered woman who doesn’t need anyone except food and money to keep her company. I looked about the restaurant and smiled to myself, knowing that I was ahead of my time, a true trailblazer who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. And as I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror on the way out, I winked at my reflection and thought, man what a catch. And although I didn’t really wink at myself in the mirror, and I’m not seriously going to start dating myself and taking myself out for nice meals all the time (although now I am writing it, this doesn’t actually seem like a terrible idea) it does kind of make me wonder why people are so afraid of their own company.

I love doing stuff by myself. For me, this was a product of emerging from a long term relationship, like a butterfly from a cocoon! Yep, after you’ve finished eating and crying and you finally-inally get your shit together, its like a brand new shiny person has been created. There is so much time for activities! Your brain gets bigger! You can do whatever you want and the world is your oyster! There are a lot of things that I am really excited to do in 2017 and these are : become a martial arts master, take scuba lessons, finish Ulysses (lol was meant to read it for class like 5 years ago, don’t think this will happen), become super mindful and get better at yoga so I can do headstands! I am honestly so excited for all these things! And if I manage to contain this zeal for life (and for list-making) which writing this piece has awakened within me and return to some kind of salient point, I guess what I am trying to say is that it is really healthy to be alone sometimes. Not like “sitting in a cave up a hill pondering the meaning of life” kind of alone or “staring at a wall listening to The Sound of Silence in a darkened room” (although if that works, then you do you), I mean like going to the cinema (which can be annoying if its a long ass movie and you need to pee halfway through and you don’t have anyone to explain the plot which you’ve missed so you have to hold if for three hours) or going and walking about and stuff. There is a lot of pressure for people to be in a relationship, I’ve lost count of how many times people ask if I’m seeing someone, or tell me I should have a boyfriend by now. Sorry if I do not have the time to spend half my life reassuring a guy that his hair looks okay, or wondering why this ungrateful idiot is liking all of @sexysarah101’s pics on Instagram. I just do not have the energy for that, as I am really into my career and becoming a martial arts expert, okay? It’s probably got to do with the fact that forty years ago, I would have been married off by now to some guy who sands trees down into tables during the day and then demands I make him some sort of meatloaf for dinner at night. That is absolutely fine and well, but I don’t know how to make a meatloaf, nor do I understand how that has translated to the modern idea that being in a relationship is understood to equal personal happiness. I am loathe to revert to this overused quote, but it works in this context so well— “if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else”. So yep basically just rock out, be a bad ass bitch, and don’t be afraid of your own company. And take yourself on a date once in a while, you deserve it x

Millenial Misrepresentation

I’ve seen a whole load of articles recently about millennials, and what they’re thinking, and what they’re up to, and generally lamenting why they are so annoying. Since I am born after 1980, and therefore fall into this broad ranging category,  I wanted to check out exactly what old people are talking about when they bandy this term about. I have a rough idea gleaned from various articles, but did a quick google just to make sure I wasn’t taking offence for no reason. There are a few recurring themes, namely that we are; lazy, narcissistic, entitled, fame hungry, materialistic -(I could go on and on and on, but this is actually starting to bruise my huge millennial-sized ego). Basically, perceived to be at the core of this generation, is the self. And I suppose within the space of a few short years- to use a crude example- we went from waiting for rolls of film to be developed, to being able to take daily selfies with instant results. I mean I know it baffles my parents, but sometimes I know in my heart that look like an angel sent from heaven when I’m reclining on the couch, and I want to commemorate that moment forever (or until my phone memory is full and I have to delete it). We are the first generation to have grown up with such technology at our fingertips, and to have been able to profit from this perceived narcissism in such a way. I’ll admit hearing of some people making loads of money by advertising gummy shaped bears sweets to make your hair thick and luscious on their Instagram page really grinds my gears, especially when I am writing my 3700093989803th cover letter of the week. But more just peeved off because I wish I could be advertising stupid shit for money (if anyone wants me to advertise stuff HMU).

But for the savvy use of technological advances to be compared to laziness was infuriating reading. Each article was full of condescending, sweeping generalisations managing to negatively characterise an entire generation. The only aim seemed to be to shrink the aspirations and individual thoughts of millions and millions of young people in this incredibly snide way. ‘They love spending money, travelling, they don’t work hard, they love themselves’ are the prevalent ideas hashed out in various op-eds. (I’m sorry if people like going on holiday and buying really great outfits and having fun 24/7- what are the damn kids like ffs). There are loads of people trying to profit from these this too, with marketing strategies geared towards reeling in an entire generation supposedly captivated by commercialisation. But at the same time, with this technology which we have harnessed to our advantage, that doesn’t mean everyone is magically making money from Insta ads for amazing hair. Loads of jobs are gonna be replaced by robots soon, and yet simultaneously we will have to wait ages to retire. I mean freakin’ unpaid internships in London exist! How or why does an opportunity which enables a tiny minority of the population to succeed become such a widespread and accepted practice? I guess unfair and irritating crap has always existed, but being labelled a member of a generation of narcissistic idiots is distracting me from writing my incredible deep and serious blog posts!

Although people have always critiqued the generation before them, there has never been one which has been so visible, and I guess rendered so alien, through technology. Even I feel a sense of detachment towards kids who are only just growing up now. Thinking back to when I was their age, 12 or so, I wasn’t able to have the same constant level of communication- apart from in weird chatrooms and Club Penguin, of course. Things are advancing quite quickly, and I will stick my hands up and say that yes, it can seem a bit nuts. But I am not gonna go thrusting my weight about calling everyone under a certain age a brainless moron, because it just isn’t true.

I mean yes it did take me ages to write this article, because I was thinking about clothes and taking selfies whilst lying in my bed, BUT I got the job done didn’t I?!

 

The trouble with ovaries…

This week, something which most women have known for years has finally been confirmed by actual scientific research. Taking the contraceptive pill is linked to an increased risk of depression. Girls aged between 15-19 who are on the pill are 80% more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than those who are not on hormonal contraception. Many young women choose to begin using birth control methods such as the pill in their late teens, which is also supposed to help out with acne, period pain and other unpleasant lady stuff- as well as being 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

I am going to speak quite frankly about this, as it’s something I have struggled with for a long time. When I heard about this study, there was a really weird mix of emotions and I guess a degree of validation awarded to my experience. I first experimented (it is a literal experiment) with going on the pill aged 18, I was prescribed one which many of my friends had spoken positively of. I thought I would never have a spot on my face or a cramp in my ovary again! But within three months, I had broken out with severe acne (something which I had never had a previous problem with, and haven’t since), my boobs had ballooned four sizes and I was retaining more weight than I usually did. In trying to take responsibility for my sexual health, I had totally lost control of my body. With frantic repeated googling, I realised these “minor” side effects were commonly linked to this particular form of birth control, and that it was time to switch. Apprehensively I moved onto pill number two and after six months, in a miraculous turn of events, both the acne and the weight had shifted . Yet I struggled to grapple with the combination of anxiety and depression which I experienced, and to relay this information to a rather unsympathetic and unhelpful GP. There was no real mention of a potential link to my pill, and it was only through talking to friends that I discovered this was a relatively common occurrence. Stories of being “crazy” and a “hormonal mess” had lead many to abandon it altogether, or try out the other invasive options of implant or the coil. There were equally off-putting stories which have been enough to deter me from these options: of non-stop bleeding on the implant for months at a time, and women passing out with the pain of insertion of the coil. (There is a really good article here on Broadly about some women’s experience with the IUD). The depression which I experienced as a side effect of birth control interfered with my personal relationships, and I struggled to convince my boyfriend at the time that this behaviour wasn’t normal or in character for me. I had experienced a detrimental effect on both my physical and mental health, and I didn’t really have any other option. These side effects left me genuinely scared to move onto my third different pill- what if they returned or worsened? Thankfully the lower dose in estrogen agreed with my body, but many women I know have abandoned hormonal contraception altogether unable to find something to agree with them, and with no real alternative, that is a big risk to take. There aren’t many other viable options presented as generally the GP’s I visited were older men, and although they did their job, there was no level of understanding or common ground between us. I felt like they wanted me out of their office as quickly as possible, and had little understanding of the toll these unwanted side effects had taken.

It’s strange having been on this pill for two years, and thinking about what my personality or body might be like without it. Hearing of contraception for men certainly changes things up a bit, yet ignites many more questions over the level of trust put in a partner in this department. The saying goes that it takes two to tango, but right now it seems that only one of the the dancers is putting in any leg work (10/10 metaphor!!!). I guess 4 years isn’t too far away and hopefully this offers up a solution which makes the entire situation less one-sided, and which less women have to endure these side effects as a necessary evil.

Clothing Optional

Today, images emerged of a woman being forced to remove a Burkini whilst sunbathing on a beach in France. Yes, a woman was stripped of clothing she wanted to wear by armed police because apparently her outfit symbolises religious oppression/extremism.

If for one moment we ignore the fact that quite obviously this woman elected to, and felt comfortable in this item of clothing, and suppose that this Burkini is a symbol of “the enslavement of women”- why is a woman not allowed to be modest? Just as women have the freedom to sunbathe topless, why is she not allowed to cover her body? If this is how she chooses to spend a day at the beach, who is the government to intervene? Marine Le Penn, as a poor excuse for the regulation cites that ‘France does not lock away a woman’s body’. Instead of free will in the matter, her body is forcibly stripped bare by society to be scrutinised outwith her own free will. Arresting a woman for her choice of clothing in 2016 is now a reality. I’m 99% sure this constitutes as a violation of a basic human right. We are simply perpetuating the time honoured tradition of a group of men (and Marine Le Penn) dictating what a woman can and can not wear. This is obviously a thinly veiled attempt on the part of a country which has suffered a great deal to attempt to assert control, and at the same time wrongly blame an entire religion for the terrible events which have taken place. But why is the woman one to suffer, why is her ideology compromised?

At the other end of the spectrum, away from women being shamed for modesty, women are shamed for choosing to expose their bodies. And perhaps more worryingly, for being proud of their bodies. As an over cited, but nonetheless important example- take Kim Kardashian’s naked selfie. The selfie is an key method of asserting ones individuality in the digital age. It’s self-representation in its crudest form. You take a few photos, pick the one you look best and post it online for all to see. This is how Kim chose to represent herself: she’s naked, she looks amazing, and she doesn’t give a fuck. If I had worked out that hard I’d probably do the same! (Although right now I eat so many potatoes that I myself have begun to resemble one, so it’s out of the question) So why are there people angrily pounding on their keyboards and lamenting the state of feminism because of one woman’s personal choice to post a photo, taking pride in her body. Is it then a sin to be confident, for a woman to know in herself how she wishes to be seen? For the woman in the Burkini perhaps she does not wish for her body to define her, whilst for others, her body is something to show off and take pride in. Either way should the female form still provoke such outrage, as it seems to have for centuries. Too much confidence means a woman is trashy, and a disregard for convention is equally damaging. So what is “the right way” for a woman dress? Why is the female body a constant cause for debate, a battle ground to be fought on by the opinions of others. We live in a society where women are raped for wearing too little, and arrested for wearing too much.

So wear a Burkini! Wear a tracksuit! Wear a bikini! Wear nothing! DO WHAT YOU WANT! Just don’t let a government, or a weirdo on the internet, or your parents, or ANYONE ever tell you what you should or shouldn’t wear, because although it might seem superficial- it isn’t. Your body is your body. And your choice is your choice. It’s nobody else’s.