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Sunday, 7 December 2014

25 Things it Took Me 25 Years to Learn

As I write this, I am 24 years and 51 weeks old. Apart from it no longer being socially acceptable to count my age in actual weeks, this milestone also symbolises the point at which it is expected for one to have their shit together. Some of us are getting married or expecting our third child at age 25, while others (ahem) are still not entirely sure how supermarket shopping actually works. As somebody who is permanently dancing on the line between 'I've got a pension fund you know' and 'Yay, Frozen!' I feel I am adequately qualified* to share my insights into what I have learned in the past 24 years and 51 weeks.

1. You're never going to have enough money 

I make more in a month now than I had to live off for a whole term when I was a student, and I'm still skint. If you think about it too much, it can keep you up at night, so best not to worry too much and go for the Pinot rather than the Sauvignon next time and everything will be fine. 

2. The things that scare you can often be the best 

Some of the best things I've done so far have been the absolutely petrifying things; moving to a city where I knew no one (times two), telling a boy that I love him (paid off), cycling down Clapham Road (not for the feint-hearted) and signing up to trek to Machu Picchu (probably a bad decision, in hindsight). 

3. It gets better 

Not knowing when it's going to get better can be very difficult, but rest assured that it will. If nothing else, time is a great healer, so that shitty thing will become less shitty as time goes by. Conversely, the joy of being 25 is that there's still so much more exciting stuff to come, that will probably be better than the exiting stuff that's just been. 

Every year that I have been an 'adult' has gotten progressively better than the previous one; graduating from a confused mess of a student, to a student with some good friends, to a person with a degree, to a person with some sort of responsibility, to a person who is ever more comfortable in their own skin, to a person with an actual job, to a person with an excellent flat and flatmates, to a person with a lovely boyfriend is a pretty good upwards trajectory, year-on-year. 

4. Occasionally, it will get worse. But then it will get better again (see point 3.)

In-between being a person with a degree and being a person with a job there was a time when I was a person with not a lot really, but it got much, much better even though at the time I wasn't sure it ever would. 

5. Moisturising is really important

Dried-out, wrinkly skin is no joke, yo.

6. People are generally nice 

Treat them as such, and let them prove you wrong. 

7. Some people are the worst but that is their problem, not yours 

Mean people aren't just being mean to you, so don't take it to heart.

8. Stop shopping in Primark

You're a grown-up now, start dressing like a lady, damit. (It's still acceptable for fancy dress).

9. Get a signature scent 

Now is the time to commit. 

10. Good friends are the single biggest key to happiness in your entire life 

Be good to them, find time for the best ones and laugh a lot. If it all comes crashing down, these are the guys that are morally obliged to listen to you rant, and when the big things happen, these are the guys that will get in the Champagne. 

11. Holidays are the best use of money 

Miserable people just haven't been on enough holidays. 

12. It's totally ok to like Taylor Swift

This one's straight from the heart. The girl is an inspiration to us all. 

13. Be nice to people at work 

You're going to spend more time with them every week than any other human beings, might as well make it pleasant.  

14. Angry people aren't angry at you

Don't take it personally. 

15. Starting a book club might be the best thing you ever do

Read all of the books, some of them will change your life. There's also a chance that you'll meet some excellent people in the process. 

16. Being good at cooking goes a long way 

People love it when you cook for them.  

17. Weddings of friends are the best and the worst and everything in between 

All that buildup, mixed with everyone being dressed all fancy and all that Champagne makes for a heady mix of emotion.  

18. Sometimes, the thing you were looking for might have been right there all along 

Take a look around. People change, feelings change and circumstances change. Always be re-evaluating whey you thought you knew.  

19. It's totally fine to dance like a dick and no one cares

Straight up some of the happiest moments of my life have been when dancing like a dick, surrounded by people who don't mind being seen with you. 

20. The importance of good-quality make-up 

Invest in the good stuff, it's totally worth it. 

21. People like receiving personal correspondence  

Think how great it is when you scan your inbox contents and see your friend's name among the quarterly earnings forecasts and sales reports (are they things that workplace emails contain? I don't really know). Spread that inbox joy and we'll all come out the other side happier. 

22. There is no purer form of pleasure than laying in bed on a Sunday morning

Nothing beats that heavenly feeling of being able to get out of bed on your own terms.

23. Don't lie to yourself 

It doesn't help anyone and will probably waste a lot of your time.  

24. Dairy Milk is the best 

Don't waste your time on Galaxy.  

25. Getting angry and/or stressed is the least productive response you can have to something

Being angry isn't going to help you solve that problem any quicker, and no one likes a stress-head.

*nb. I am in no way qualified to give out life advice 

Monday, 3 November 2014

Guest Post: A Feminist Pro-Lifer, Say What?!

Foreword: The guest writer of this post is my best friend in the world. I have written about our friendship here, and I am fairly sure she is my soulmate. Through the many, many things that we agree on, there is one thing which we certainly do not, and that is which side of the pro-life/pro-choice debate we fall on. I am absolutely an advocate of choice, while she is unwaveringly pro-life, and this has caused some heated discussions, to say the least. Where our opinions and beliefs again converge is that we are both hardened feminists, so I thought that it would be interesting to get her to write about what it means to be a feminist pro-lifer. 

An unwanted pregnancy can be a terrifying experience, regardless of your circumstances. I’m 24, employed and married to the love of my life – a couple of months ago, this did not help my snotty-nosed-quite-inebriated-self come to terms with the fact that my period was a week late as I repeatedly sobbed into my husband’s shoulder “I don’t want a baby yet”. I understood his incredulous gaze a few weeks later when after said period had come and gone we saw a cute baby advert and I asked “when can we have a baby like that please?”

But, if I had been pregnant, I would still have had the baby - because that is what I believe the fetus is: a baby, a person, a human. And I can’t justify my adult desires overriding the right to life of another human being, regardless of its size, its current residence or level of independence.

For many women who discover they are unexpectedly pregnant, their reasons for not wanting a baby can be a lot more poignant: they wouldn’t be able to afford a baby, they would be a single mum, they wouldn’t have anywhere to live, they would be trapped in an abusive relationship, they would lose their job, their baby would be taken into care… the list goes on.

As a pro-lifer, who believes in the humanity of the unborn from the moment of conception, I believe we should be fighting to eliminate these reasons rather than promoting a “quick fix” solution, which ends an innocent life.

As a feminist pro-lifer, I believe we should be fighting to eliminate these reasons in the name of equality. We should be fighting for recognition that while a woman’s biology does not define her, it is an important aspect of her identity and not an inconvenience that can be treated as such by society. It is, in fact, an incredible science, and should be celebrated.

I wouldn’t want a baby right now because I haven’t lived my own life to its full quite yet. But every time I have sex, I’m fully aware that there is a possibility that I could get pregnant. The majority of heterosexual couples are also aware that no contraceptive method is 100% effective at preventing a pregnancy, but they still choose to have sex and who can blame them? Sex is fun.

But it’s not consequence-free, however much you want it to be. And it’s not the sole responsibility of women to “deal” with an unwanted result of those cosy cuddles. It seems that society teaches men that, actually, they can have consequence-free sex and if a woman does become pregnant then the chivalrous thing to do is to let her know that it’s all on her – it’s her choice. She can make the life-changing decision, and he’ll drive her to the clinic or her local GP depending on her choice.

We’ve been indoctrinated into believing that choosing between either continuing or ending a pregnancy is empowering. It is taking control. Or is it actually taking responsibility for men’s actions? For their ignorance of the potential outcome resulting from sex? I certainly don’t see it as an empowering choice, I see it as an awful choice. You either suck it up and have a baby that you most certainly weren’t planning on having and therefore change the rest of your life, or have to go through an undeniably unpleasant procedure which could have long-term repercussions on your mental well-being. So in fact it’s a “which is worse” decision, not a choice.

Why should women have to shoulder all of this? How did men scoop such a good deal? They have fabulous sex, they don’t wear a condom (the sinking feeling that they may have to vanishes as soon as they hear that you’ve kindly been dosing up on hormones, one-a-day, for the past six years) and now we’re pregnant it’s still all on us – our responsibility, our problem to solve. It doesn’t sound like a very equal society to me.
The promotion of abortion is disguised as being the liberating answer to women’s oppression but if I am expected to terminate my pregnancy in order to keep my job, keep my partner or keep my house then I am not being empowered, I am still being oppressed by the patriarchal society in which we live.
I am not a commodity, I am proud of my biology and I do not believe that ‘feminist pro-lifer’ is an oxymoron.

Sarah Delap

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Social Awkwardness Has To Stop

Modern city life is a hotbed of social awkwardness around every corner. Not a day goes by where I, or one of my equally socially inept friends, don’t experience something of at least a moderate level of social discomfort. Day-to-day, this can range from the casual ‘awkward door-run’ (when someone holds the door open for you and you’re then forced to run to said door to avoid the person having to wait too long for you) to the full-blown ‘work colleague starts crying and you’re morally obliged to express concern’ catastrophe. It is from this minefield of social awkwardness that we got to thinking that it would be good if there was some sort of training course that one could go on, where one is taught how to deal with a plethora of socially awkward situations. We took the liberty of making a mock-up course syllabus for the reference of anyone who might be interested in running such a course, in the interest of the good of the people.  The course would be divided up into handy modules in commuter, socialising, etiquette and office awks, tailored for the awkwardness level of the individual.

The course would be as follows:

Commuter Awkwardness

·         How to ensure fellow passenger is pregnant before offering them your seat. Pointers include: female, baby on board badge, huge bump, hand on back, evil glares

·        How to determine whether fellow passenger is elderly enough to offer seat. Pointers include: walking stick, Gandalf beard, complaints about hip, chatter about the olden days, evil glares

·       How to handle accidental hand-touch as a result of holding the same pole

·        How to elegantly barge on to train and subtly crush any commuters in front.

Socialising Awkwardness

·         How to navigate conversation after forgetting fellow person’s name/history/job/life/existence

·         How to fake reaction to ‘new’ information and disguise previous Facebook stalk

  •  Techniques for handling a situation in which one finds themselves to be disproportionately drunk for the amount of alcohol consumed 

·         How to recover from loudly insulting a fellow partygoer who appears to be standing within earshot

Etiquette Awkwardness

·         Correctly determining whether a person is going to go for the handshake, hug, cheek-kiss or fist pump upon being introduced to them and responding accordingly. Alternative options include: fist kiss, hand hug or pump shake

·         The correct point at which to laugh at a joke that one does not understand

·         Pretending to have in-depth knowledge and opinions on current affairs/politics/history/basic maths/trending things

Office Awkwardness

·          Small Talk: A Beginners’ Guide – for use in lifts, corridors, bathrooms and more

·         How to carefully inform fellow office inhabitants that the milk in the fridge is indeed not ‘there for everyone’

·          How to ditch colleague to avoid tube/bus stop/two hour walk home awks

Bonus Module (for the particularly posh socially inept)

Yacht Club Awkwardness

·         How to handle the sheer embarrassment of finding out one’s boat buddy owns a three-berth when one only owns a two-berth

      Disclaimer- I cannot in any way take full credit for this, my much more hilarious friend Selina did most of the funnies, I just happen to be the one who has a blog. We wrote this for a work project which never ran in the end, but we thought that the world needed to see it anyway. 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

I Don't Know How To Be Cool

As a kid, coolness was a measurable phenomena; there was a certain set of criteria and depending whether and to what degree one met that criteria, they would be awarded a coolness score. This criteria could vary from school to school, context to context, but the fundamentals remained the same. In my teenage years, being cool meant owning and being able to effectively use hair straighteners, wearing school trousers which were the perfect amount of flared and tight (it was the early naughties), being allowed to watch certificate-18 films at sleepovers and having at least one story (with only a loose sense of truthfulness) which involved you being drunk. Bonus points were awarded for having a boyfriend who was also considered 'cool' (to be part of a 'cool' power couple was always the dream, sadly I only ever managed to attain some questionable conquests at best), having a particularly profound MSN screen name and living within close proximity of a bus stop. I liked those days, one knew where one stood (for me that was slightly outside of the full-blown 'on Wednesdays, we wear pink.' power clique, but I was happy) and the rules were clearly laid out.

Nowadays, no one appears to have written any sort of guidelines on how to be a cool semi-adult and thus the lines are blurred on what is actually cool anymore. Obviously I'm not saying that we should all live our lives by the same elaborately-disguised bullying that most of us endured at some point growing up, I am merely interested in the concept of what is cool. Personally I don't buy the self-righteous proclamation by some that they don't care what people think of them, as I think that many people still do care about the image that they project. Afterall, what is Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr or even Tinder if not just another way for people to show others how cool they are?

Society and the media has traditionally told us that thick-rimmed glasses, bow ties, satchels, paperbacks and social awkwardness are wholly uncool; while perky personalities, manicured nails, designer clothes and trust funds are what we all should be striving for. This, however, is not the case in real grown-up life. Anyone who has ever been on the internet or been outside (and if you're reading this, I'm assuming there's a good chance you've done both) will know that somehow now a pug wearing Ray-Bans is the coolest thing out there. Correct grammar, making your own clothes, photography, brewing and drinking tea are all now somehow cool. In my (obviously the height of cool) flat, we have at least six varieties of tea on-hand at any time, and I sleep under a lovingly knitted (by my beautiful and also very cool friend) blanket which is the coolest item that I own. Look to the mainstream media, and we are told that this is the height of uncool. Look to the internet, and people will be double-tapping that shit all over the place.

So, what's happened? Do we have the internet to thank because we all now have a voice and a platform from which to project it and thus overthrow the ideals of the mainstream media? Do we have the likes of Zooey Deschanel and Lena Dunham to thank for changing the traditional ideals of cool within the mainstream media? Have times just changed and the quirky/cool index has shifted? Or, is it that we've just all grown up now and learnt that actually we were all just pretending as teenagers and now we're finally all free to be who we really are?

"If I wanted to be ironic, I'd grow a mustache."

Weigh in in the comments below. xoxo