Fuck Me or Get Out

Hello Readers!

I guess the title for this post is pretty self-explanatory: another day, another terrible, terrible I-couldn’t-even-call-it-a-date.

For those thinking “oh no, not another male bashing post”, well, I’m sorry. I can’t help it that I’m a woman who’s come across men who’ve behaved like morons. It’s not a reflection of all men of course, but it’s definitely still relevant.

After my whole “ghosted” experience, I felt less inclined to be open when chatting to guys online. It made sense to stick to the point and not invest too much in the form of selfies, lengthy texts, voice-notes and so on. A friend of mine made a good point that, in this unique dating-app culture, people are lonely and therefore happy to use each other as “temporary comfort blankets”. In other words, whilst swipers may be happy to share parts of themselves for just a few days, weeks; that’s not to assume the person they’re speaking to isn’t disposable; filling a hole open part-time only.

For me, this theory made sense. By the time I was ready to meet *Jimmy, I didn’t know whether I liked him or not. I had no preformed opinion and felt neither excited or nervous. I was neutral; made less effort, ditched the curling tongs; wore a sports bra – you get the gist.

It was a good first date. Possibly the best first I’ve ever had with someone online.

We went for cocktails in Kings Cross and seemed to have chemistry. In other words, we held a strong superficial attraction. Jimmy was really nice looking: good build, fair height, strong jawline. He smelled like a field of white lilies dusted with coconut shavings and vanilla musk powder, yummy! He was in no way shy and arrived to the date guns blazing: very flirty, ridiculously cocky and very tactile. In fact, Jimmy was the sort of man I’d tried to avoid in recent years: I knew he’d be trouble.

Unfortunately, even with that knowing, I decided to ignore the signs anyway. “Treat yourself”, I thought. After years of turbulent relationships with an aftermath of solitary confinement and holy water blessings, I decided to finally “surrender to the moment”. I sat close to Jimmy and giggled and flirted and let outsiders believe we were a honey-mooned couple: fake it ’til you make it they say. I didn’t quiz Jimmy, or share too much about myself. Instead, I let myself enjoy him in that moment, accepting it for what it was.

We spent a couple of hours sitting very closely together, having a laugh and *deep breath* kissing. There I was, Sister Mary Clarence of the dating app world: Letting. Herself. Go.

By the time our second date came ’round, Jimmy convinced me to visit his house which was may I add, in the middle of nowhere. Now I knowww what you’re thinking – you’re thinking “whyyyy did you GO?” Well, because I’m an idiot, I guess. Bored, naive, curious; excited. I had no intention of sleeping with the guy (although I did wax my bikini line JUST in case).

My body, my choice, right?

Jimmy picked me up from a far out location – a station I’d never been before – on the opposite side of London. He arrived in a black, shiny BMW, wearing slippers and a tracksuit. What a douche.

The first thing he did to cause offence (after arriving at his three bedroom, two bathroom, semi-detached house), was ‘shush’ me during a television program. After convincing him to play one of my favourite ever shows (Haters Back Off, Netflix), he shortly switched it off and put on First Dates (Ch4), instead.

Now, call me crazy, but I thought when you watch a film or movie at home, it isn’t a crime to speak while it’s on, especially when what you say relates to the content?! During one of the scenes, where this painfully optimistic girl dips a fluffy marshmallow into a tub of hot chocolate and says”Mmmmm, SWIRL!!” I made the mistake of saying “Wow! Don’t you think her date looks uncomfortable?!”

At this point, my own, epic fail of a date (who happened to be sitting alone on a rotating circular swivel couch), held up a finger, shushed me and said “Please don’t talk, I’m trying to watch”. I wish I’d seized the moment by grabbing my coat and bolting out the door true ninja-style but alas, I just smiled and said “You can press pause or rewind, you know”.

Leading up to this event, Jimmy’d actually raised other red flags. In a previous phone call, he’d said that he often stops fancying girls after seeing them naked. A size 12, with cellulite and stretch marks: why wasn’t this enough for me to lock the whole thing off? Idiocy, is all that springs to mind.

After expressing the desire to make “a fresh, light dinner”, Jimmy shoved two breaded chicken goujons in to the oven and halved a potato latke. Now, I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to food, but I think the romance truly ended when he muttered: “These are going off tomorrow, I need to get rid of them”.

I cheered up a great deal after being fed. In fact, I actually felt a slight thrill being at this attractive man’s house. There I was, being wined (watered) and dined by a universal mystery; Jimmy even invited me to sit with him on the swivel couch! I accepted, and it wasn’t long before he and I were kissing again: fluffy tracksuits rubbing, sweaty palms patting. As enjoyable as our escapade was, I decided that kissing and caressing was more than quite enough. I straightened up, smiled and slightly moved away.

Poor, horrible Jimmy.

Have you ever seen someone stare at a moving London underground train? When their eyes dart manically from carriage to carriage? Based on what I could only perceive as a pent up simmering rage, Jimmy’s eyes started flickering across my face. Seriously, he was so enraged he couldn’t keep his eyeballs still, they were going wild with anger! It was a bit like watching a horror film; I wondered if he would transform from a tall, tanned “attractive” being, into a limbless, slimy amphibian.

After foaming at the mouth for what felt like an eternity, Jimmy began to spew poisonous venom:

  1. “What do you mean you’re not going to fuck me?”
  2. “I’m not going to spend time getting to know a girl who clearly will never be my girlfriend”.
  3. “So, what? You’d sleep with your ex-boyfriend but won’t sleep with me?” [Just to further enhance the absurdity of this comment – I’d previously been in a two year relationship and mentioned that he was the last person I’d “hooked up” with].
  4. “I don’t want to sleep with you anymore anyway. I’m over it. Do you see where I’m coming from? I’m so pissed off”. Aaannd my personal favourite:
  5. “You just won’t fuck me today, so you can convince your friends that you’re not a slag tomorrow”.

Suddenly the guy who wasn’t interested in saying more than five words to me had become very, very vocal. My response? “Right…this is awkward…I’m getting out of here!”

As I entered his address into Uber (which I even more awkwardly had to ask for), Jimmy was frantically pacing the room with both hands on his head. I could see he wanted nothing more than for me to get the fuck out. I decided to wait outside.

I put my feet in my trainers and saw Jimmy, truly repulsed by my presence. He walked toward me like a nightclub bouncer, in a bizarre attempt to usher me out. I had no time to tie my shoelaces or pull the back over my heel, so I just shuffled out the door. When Jimmy saw my laces still untied, he snorted with gratification.

Jimmy slammed the door shut literally the second I stepped both feet out. I was in the middle of nowhere, pitch black and my Uber hadn’t arrived. All good though, I was safer in the dark cold space than in the evil clutches of Jimmy’s swivel couch!

I can’t lie – if this had happened to me before so much online dating experience (the year was November 2018), I would’ve been in tears, traumatised. When I called my mum on the journey home we laughed about it until tears fell from our eyes: I guess we too have been desensitised.

You know, in my previous post about ghosting, I questioned my level of openness. The guy who semi-ghosted me said he didn’t believe I was “into him” and that I was “difficult to read”. I wondered if I should have been more tactile on our first date. Maybe I should have subtly tapped his arm, sat closer to him; made an excuse to smell his fabric linen

Jimmy’s reaction was so hostile and dramatic, I began to question myself AGAIN: Should I have slept with him? Was it outrageous of me to accept dinner with no intention of actually sleeping with the culinary master-chef? Am I the one with the problem?

Lol.

Being in somebody else’s home, I realised that my body IS my home; anyone who isn’t invited is an intruder. Anyone who makes me feel unsafe gets locked out.

When I’d arrived at Jimmys house that day, he seemed agitated: he gave little eye contact; asked barely any questions. In hindsight, I think he believed his superficial attributes entitled an easy lay.

But what if I had slept with Jimmy? Succumbed to the pressure, caved in; tried to placate him in an attempt to win points: would he have chucked me out the moment we were finished? Would we have had the same outcome, just with myself feeling used and humiliated?

I then wondered how many girls he’d brought back to his lair. How many girls had been chucked out the door in the cold, shoelaces scraping concrete.

When two people like each other enough and, know that they like each other enough, sex is surely on the cards, right? Is the rush or delay really important? Do people use fleeting physical intimacy to fill the gap of emotions lost?

A few weeks after my “date”, I heard a plea on the radio – a mans voice – seeking any kind of information on his missing daughter, Grace Millane. Grace, a 22 year old British graduate had traveled to Auckland, NZ on a gap year and been murdered by a male she’d met on Tinder. The news made me sick.

Whilst I can’t blame online dating apps for such unthinkable outcomes, perhaps there should be both a vetting and ratings system. Users should be able to leave public  feedback regarding their feelings of comfort and safety.

I reported Jimmy on Hinge, simply for the fact I felt unnerved and unsafe. Frustratingly, I wasn’t able to leave a comment stating my reasons why, but I did get him banned. I also blamed myself for doing something remotely risky and spontaneous when the truth is, women should be able to live freely, without fear.

Sleeping With The Lights On

I was 21 when my eyes opened to how fragile ones mind is. My first ever blog post touched on the chronic battle I faced with panic attacks, anxiety, numbness and insomnia. During that time, I experienced multiple bouts of “Sleep Paralysis”, an eerie state awakened by a “woke” mind and “dead” body.

The first time it happened, I was certain a ghost had slipped in through the gap beneath my door, dragged itself in like that babe from The Ring (2003) and entered my body via the channel of my belly button.

Thank God for Google, is all I can say.

They say you shouldn’t type your symptoms in to Google in the event of amplified or inaccurate diagnosis, but that miraculous little search engine saved my entire sanity. If it weren’t for Google, I would probably be strapped down in Bedlam right now, reciting lines from The Exorcist (1974).

Sleep Paralysis arrives and subsides in a matter of moments, once the body has finally caught up with the mind. Amid these first few seconds (or even minutes), your body is completely paralysed while your mind screams “HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME! HELP ME!” It’s super cool, said no-one ever.

During the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep, where our imaginative minds roll out our own movies, our muscles endure paralysis to stop us playing out the scenes. The paralysis itself, is said to be caused by Glycine and GABA, alarmingly not the names of two reindeer, but rather chemicals in the brain. 

Even now, with the knowledge that Sleep Paralysis is a non-harmful and temporary state, it never stops being frightening. I don’t think I’ve ever woken up and chosen not to move, to intentionally keep my eyes closed and body still as a form of relaxation. If I ever did? I probably wouldn’t even know the Sleep Paralysis was happening. Freaky!

There are many superstitions around Sleep Paralysis, understandable, given that it literally feels like you’ve been gagged and bolted to a depths-of-hell mattress. Brazil, Kurdistan, Afghanistan; India are just few of the countries spewing folklore: that sleep paralysis is a “force of evil” trying to possess and harm the body.

The first time I told my grandmother about my encounter with SP, she said she knew what I was going through, cradled my neck and started counting rosary beads above my head. She could have just sung me a lullaby but yeah, apparently the condition might also be genetic.

For me, experiencing something like this was like living out a nightmare. The more afraid I became of feeling paralysed, the more resistant I was to sleep and thus, the pattern of chronic insomnia began. I met Doctors who were cold and clinical, widening their eyes at me and writing up drug prescriptions (which I never took).

I found forums online where other people were undergoing Sleep Paralysis and I kid you not, there was even the occasional weirdo who ENJOYED playing Medusa’s “turned to stone”. The more I read, the more I understood that I was somehow at war with my very own mind.

The battle commenced. Lights out by 10pm. Curtains drawn. TV off. Phone silenced. I bullied myself back to sleep. No matter how apprehensive I felt, or how many times I woke with a racing heart and mannequins body, I concluded this chapter as a reoccurring nightmare I’d eventually wake from.

Six months later I was in a completely different space. The symptoms had significantly decreased; I kept a glass of wisdom by my bedside. I removed myself from the “normal” box, because it never existed in the first place. I put the woke into waking up and two years later, I was free.

…Well, almost.

More recently, I was going through a personal rough patch and despite being able to “hold it together”, my body found an outlet to process the stress. I wasn’t worried – albeit disheartened – so I booked myself a holiday and drifted off in to a slumber of self care, sea and sand.

It was during this trip that I realised I’d been taking my sleeping patterns for granted. I had once lived through months and months of insomnia, SP and night terrors but had been lucky enough to recover. It was in this epiphany that I became deeply grateful for my run of the mill dreams, so I started taking note of them.

Here is a 5 day REM-collection: dreams which have unveiled thanks to mind and body alignment:

1. The Drug Juice, 9/19

Anny and myself are with a big group of strangers, they’ve enticed us to party but have started being strange and controlling. I suspect they’re in a satanic cult but don’t want to offend. They offer us a drink filled with bristly hay and dried stems. I take a sip and now the plants are sprouting out of my mouth and jutting in to my gums. I can tell I’m being spiked. I manage to keep my mind alert by singing in my head, but my body is frozen. Once we come out of the trance Anny says “I think we’ve been drugged” and I agree. We see new faces come and go and plan an escape by wiggling our eyebrows at each other.

In the next part of my dream, I’m sitting ’round a table with my older brother and a family friend, Ted. My brother expresses his sadness around seeing our dad get older and how different he is to who he used to be. I agree with him and tell him I feel exactly the same, but that I’m happy we’re talking about it.  

2. She’s a Peng Ting, 9/19

Vera has decided to leave our place of work and it’s a nightmare. Thunder and lightning has struck and I am drenched from the rain. She passes me a ring and asks to keep it safe for her. I agree, but feel as though the world is ending.

Suddenly, it’s summer and I’m lounging by a pool with Anny. A guy I went on one date with appears and walks straight over to Anny. Ignoring me, he holds his phone up and takes a selfie yelling “WOAH! SHE’S A PENG TING!” I feel an overwhelming surge of jealousy and cannonball myself in to the pool, in a desperate bid for attention.

3. Do It For The Gram, 10/19

I’m partying with friends, who are all having a much better time than me. I begin to sulk and start guzzling a large bottle of wine to catch up with them. Now drunk, my friends are screaming at me for following them around and filming them.

I make a lucky escape from the hecklers and am now at the top of a large, straight slide. I shoot down it alone, landing in Joanna’s front room. I’m left to babysit Amelia, who I decide to take for a meal but we end up in a theme park. She goes on these high swing chairs and seems to make a friend. As she gets off, she’s shouting at me for filming her. I lie and say I want her mum to see it, but immediately upload the film to Instagram. 

4. Sequined Mammals, 10/19

I’m in a lift with Adey, which is plummeting down at high speed without stopping. I’m not afraid in the least and decide to do some yoga stretches. 

I end up on my bed and have an amazing idea for a magazine. I take a nap and have a dream within dream, where I see lots of bright animals who have all swapped skin. Elephants have bright sequined fish scales, birds are glistening leopard print and monkeys are covered in peacock feathers. I wake from the dreams dream and decide to call the magazine “The Other Side”. It seems like a genius idea.

5. Man on the Loose, 10/19

My aunt Carla* (who keeps turning into my aunt Rosa*) has newly bought a house in Brighton. Something bad has happened and all the houses are sinking into the earth at a slant. Whilst on the phone, Carla looks across the harbor and says “Oh my god! That’s my house”, which continues to sink along with other buildings and modes of transport.

My phone rings and I’m given the news that my dad has run off to Pompeii. Everyone but me is delighted, and I’m panicking because he doesn’t have his medication or wallet on him. 

I’m now on a fast train to Pompeii and navigate my way to the very last carriage. An old lady is laying in bed with tubes coming out of her. I smile and sit on her bed and she says: “A beautiful girl like you, single?” I reply “I’m not that young anymore”. The lady laughs and suddenly a handsome man is in the room, who she gestures to with her eyebrows. The man looks disgusted with me. He leaves, wearing a white vest and showing muscle. The lady complains that nothing good is on TV, so I say “Don’t worry, I’ll find the channel you’re looking for”. I crouch down on the floor and as I’m changing the station, I realise that the lady is my late grandma. I gasp in delight and say “Nana!” and she giggles in a very familiar way.

Dreams are fascinating, because they take us into a world inside ourselves. While we sleep, we process memories, love, fear, jealousy, anger and also the unknown. We heal and restore within this paradoxical universe, where things shouldn’t make sense but do. I find a lot of resolution in dreams, often reconciling with lost friends, defying gravity and facing fears. 

After my chronic Sleep Paralysis episode, I’m still not exactly a sound sleeper. I toss and turn throughout the night and wake a couple times. That said, I’m grateful more than anything for rest, because I know that each sleep is a way to recharge before meeting a new day of consciousness. 

Sexual Harassment: The Hardest No

Hello Readers!

So, I recently had my End of Year Work Report, (where management review employee wins and focus areas) and was most pleased. Not because I nailed the review, but because my newfound ability to implement boundaries and give feedback was acknowledged. Admittedly, these are areas I’ve struggled with my whole life (both work-wise and personally) and I felt a surge of relief knowing I’m finally asserting myself.

I turned 30 in October and by sheer coincidence, have since said “NO” more times than I have my entire life. BOUNDARIES: nothing “mean” about their implementation, merely a protective shield from inexcusable and/or unwanted behaviour. Saying “no” has been a great way for me to exert my own personal boundaries, even that it’s taken me years to get there.

My first significant “NO” occurred around 5 years ago, when I was attacked at work by a wild beast dressed in a security uniform.

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2015. I’d started a new job in a prestigious, high-end company and was stoked; naive, bright-eyed and full of enthusiasm. My role was Front of House which was perfect at the time: a foot in the door, an opportunity to network, acquire new skills and observe. I was working with two males: our Security Guard and Security Supervisor. The first two weeks were awesome, the guys were friendly and laid back, we’d banter in our free time and I felt I’d landed on my feet.

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Unfortunately, the two-week honeymoon period ended abruptly. Our Security Guard Shane*, began to exhibit what I can only describe as obscene behaviour. In hindsight, he’d probably used the first two weeks to suss me out: could I take a joke, did I enjoy being negged; had I built up rapport with management (who unfortunately, were based overseas).

Having management elsewhere initially seemed advantageous (we were third party contractors which meant nobody onsite micro-managed or monitored us). It was just the three of us, building our own trust-filled dynamic and getting shit done. One big happy family!

There’s no polite way to mask this, but Shane became unhinged. He did everything he could to get my attention: commenting my physique, invading my space and “punishing” me with silence when his advances weren’t reciprocated. As soon as he started acting up, it was a downhill spiral. He became more and more aggressive in his approach, which shocked me into “enabler-mode”. Our Supervisor turned a blind eye, making ridiculous comments such as “Oh you two are like a married couple” or “At it again are ya?” Nah pal, you’re just complicit to bad behaviour.

Most days Shane would punch, slap, pull and even pinch me. All in “jest” of course, but when asked to stop he would carry on. It was bile-inducing.

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On one occasion he began to rub my elbow and when I moved my arm said “Did you move your arm from me?!” “Well yeah”. I replied, “You’re invading my personal space”. He continued anyway. Even if I had stapled “DON’T TOUCH ME” across the forehead it wouldn’t have deterred him. He enjoyed asserting himself through unwanted power-play.

That following day, Shane verbally abused me when asked if our clients had arrived. “Did you not hear me say fuck off?” he asked.

I had clearly joined the circus, taking on the role of a miserable clown.

That afternoon, Shane told me to “stop looking miserable” and began massaging my shoulders. Reflexively I shrugged him off but looking back, I should’ve slapped him.

Every day it was something or the other. I developed terrible anxiety going in to work and would come home exhausted. To make matters worse, our so called Supervisor was living on Mars. He acted as though Shane and I were simply “not getting on”, when it was clearly a one sided attack. One day he asked: “If you and Shane weren’t coworkers would you consider going for a drink with him?” What the actual FUCK?! I started to think I was going crazy: have I given the wrong signals? Am I missing something here? What more can I do to get my message across?

I was staying with my mum at the time who’d become equally disturbed. I’d arrive home deflated, or, in her words, “dead behind the eyes”. Together, we began to dissect the Shane saga and she encouraged writing a dated report. Let’s build a case against this fucker! I hated the idea of reporting him. I labeled myself a snitch; a woman who couldn’t handle things herself; too feeble to be feared.

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Classic victim mentality: harnessing the blame for a perpetrator who rejects accountability.

Back at work, I was constantly overhearing conversations which revolved around “pussy”, “dick” and “shiners”. The lewd comments were plentiful and very juvenile. Shane would catch me rolling my eyes and say “Awww – you missing that D? Want some D?” It was enough. I opened a google doc and let every bad encounter become my ammunition. If anyone’s “goin’ down” it’s you hun!”


24/08/2015

Today Shane ignored me all day regarding work related matters because I didn’t laugh at his  “jokes”. I asked him twice via radio to escort a VIP and was ignored. When asked what happened, he replied: “I ignored you ’cause you can’t take banter. What did you say when you first came for an interview? That you could take banter. So yeah, I’m ignoring you”. I tried to explain that not enjoying his “banter” had no correlation to our work, but he cut me off explaining that “X is X and Y is Y”.

Academic revival at its finest. 

25/08/2015

11am. Shane is angry because our night staff reported him to management for being rude. He starts threatening our colleague, saying when he sees him outside he’s going to “punch him up”; that what he does outside of work is “no-one’s business”.

Somebody book this guy a course in Anger Management pronto! 

21/09/2015

5pm. Shane’s off on a nonsensical tangent again. According to him, all women “willingly act as ‘side-chick’ material”. He sparks a ludicrous debate & becomes increasingly aggressive. I challenge his moronic views and am told to “stop jumping on your feminist bullshit”.

22/09/2015

Shane ignores me all day for challenging his views the previous day.

24/9/2015

Shane’s upset over a video call with management: “Why do they want to chat to me? I don’t want to chat to them. Take Chelsea in so she can smile at them, you’d like to smile at them, wouldn’t you, Chelsea?”

Shane takes the meeting anyway.

25/9/2015

6pm and I’ve changed into my gym gear. Shane tells me I should focus on my squats. I call him offensive and he replies “Yes it is offensive, I’m the one who has to look at you. Look at that ass, you should work on it”.

The next morning Shane asks if I’ve done my squats. I ignore him.

28/9/2015

[I have now stopped wearing makeup to work].

“When you first started here you used to look much better. You’ve gone downhill. You used to have that vava voom – you’ve let it slip”.

Yawwwwn.

29/09/2015

4.17pm. Shane’s ignoring me unless to shout: “POP THE DOORS!” He can see I’ve got a guest blocking my view; that the phone is ringing and he could open them himself using access control.

6.30pm. Shane is sitting by reception in an empty meeting room, lights out, staring straight at me.

Anyone in touch with an Exorcist?


In the end, just an hour before leaving on holiday, my older brother noticed I seemed off. It took him just one glance at my notes to say “Call your manager now. Don’t wait, just do it”. I panicked. Was I really going to cost someone their livelihood? I was still new and Shane, well liked. Regardless, I understood things had gone too far; protecting him was costing my own peace of mind.

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And that’s what’s so weird about situations like these. I wasn’t the person violating personal boundaries, yet blamed myself for the result. Life is complicated enough and as an adult, one would expect their place of work to be a haven for safety and respect for all. Not a playground, or a boys club, or a pitch black alleyway at 4am.

In a way, Shane received what he wanted: reciprocated attention. I thought of him constantly, discussed him with friends and gave him power over my feelings.

I dread to think how far it could have gone.

My manager at the time, still overseas, was amazing. As I blubbered down the phone he assured I’d done the right thing; that there would be no repercussions.

And he was right. I never saw Shane again.

Looking back, my blood boils when I remember all I’d tolerated. I empathise, but can’t relate to the young girl who let so much slide. If it were to happen again, Shane would be out the door within the space of a day. Still, my experience is what toughened me up in the first place. I’ve learned that even places of profession are filled with predators and sometimes, the system is in cahoots.

If something doesn’t FEEL right, it probably isn’t. Don’t ignore the red flags or that feeling in your gut. Don’t like something? Speak up. Go to the person highest in command and surpass them if you have to. Still no joy? Go to your local newspaper. RESIGN. Other jobs will come and frankly, no cheque is worth more than your sanity.  Observe, build a case and don’t let the predators fuck with you.

The Bully

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m sitting in an old battered waiting chair. Beads of sweat have formed at the top of my brow, as I pick at my nails, nervously. A man in a trench coat opens the door and summons me in to his room…

“It’s not good news”, he says. “We’ve got your scan results and the headache you’re experiencing is a brain tumour. It’ll probably rupture within two hours and you’ll die on your way to Ravenscourt Park. I can’t guarantee it, but you’ll likely roll down the side of a river bank and a seagull will find you floating across the Thames. Nobody will recognise you, because silver chemical compounds will have seeped in to your skin, leaving you with Argyria. You’ll be mistaken for The Tin Man and used down the West End as a life-sized prop, the taxidermist will label you his best creation yet”.

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You’re fine Chelsea, come back. 

I look up and force a smile. My best friend Jo is sitting opposite me, flicking a rollup and fussing fondly over other peoples dogs. I’ve been day drinking with barely any water, so of course my minor headache is an opportunity for some well earned self-torture.

My therapist diagnosed me as having “Catastrophic Thinking”, a condition which pretty much means what it’s called: to think catastrophically. Her solution in dealing with my, utterly exhausting, repetitive voice of gloom and doom, was to acknowledge every negative thought I have and say “Not today thought! Not today!” Well, fuck me. With tools like that I may as well embrace the fact I am batshit “crazy” and save myself some money.

I once dreamt that Paul Walker was my boyfriend and in the dream, he was so smitten he kept following me everywhere; how had I nabbed such a talented, handsome, successful man? The next morning, in real life, he died. I was sure that I had killed him: Paul Walker picked up that YOU wanted to have his babies and got so unconsciously freaked he left the earth. 

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I hate being me.

I was encouraged (by my therapist, obviously) to write a diary listing each negative thought as it came up. Definitely the creepiest thing I’ve ever done and – rather than helping – it sent me in to a “law of attraction” panic. By acknowledging my thoughts out loud, I feared that every awful thought I had would suddenly come true: that I was summoning myself to a fate of disaster and tragedy. 

Welcome to my rollercoaster of neurosis. Here is just one days worth of noted anxiety:

31st January 2019, Mum’s Birthday

9.15am, riding the tube:

It’s going to be so awful when Dad dies. We’ll need to find and fly his body over. How am I supposed to console my little brothers if I’m broken? Who’s going to identify the body? Probably Gavin*. What if Gavin then has a breakdown?  He’ll end up being sanctioned and when we visit him, he’ll be in a weird vegetable state. He’ll have dilated pupils and saliva hanging from his mouth. Only then, will I wish he was alert enough to call me an idiot and insist that my way of thinking is going to make me sick. 

9.36am, still on the tube:

What if my little brothers are getting bullied at school? How am I supposed to protect them if I can’t spend all my time with them? They wear tracksuits; Brian’s so tall now. What if he gets targeted simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time? It must be so tiring being a young man and having to show bravado. What if Brian finds it hard to express his emotions and turns to self harm? Maybe I should keep an eye out for his wrists, casually roll up his sleeves next time? I’ll do that. I’ll buy a set of those fake tattoos and ask if he wants a transfer sticker. He’ll love that! It’s a plan.

11.17am, washing my hands:

Ahh it’s Mums birthday today! I hope she’s having the best time and that everyone is spoiling her! Man, she really is the sweetest. Imagine I lost her? Who would I share all my highs and lows with? Nobody else really cares THAT much. If I lost the sound of excitement in her voice, her care; empathy: I may as well be dead. I’ll have to learn what it means to face the world alone and fall in to a black hole of numbness. Joanna will probably look after me out of fear and obligation but then…what if I kill myself and ruin her life too?

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18:57pm, walking along the platform:

Fucking hell, these crowds of people are annoying. I’ll just walk on the bobbly part of the platform to get near the end sooner. Oh god, what if I slip and fall in front of the train? I’ll delay all these commuters going home; what will my mum do? My childhood friends will probably turn to the needle I mean, who needs weed when you have heroine, right? Maybe I should text them; make them promise to look after my mum if anything happens to me.

20:47pm, “zenning” on the yoga mat:

I love Warrior Pose. Wait a second, what the…? What’s that weird pain in my side? Why am I always so bloated? Maybe I have appendicitis. Or worse, bowel cancer. Fuck it, I’m coming out of this pose to jab myself in the belly button. Feel any pain? Nope. What about there? Nope. Maybe it’s just my polycystic ovaries flaring up again. Ah well, Child’s Pose it is. 

1.13am, awake in bed:

Don’t think about it, just try to sleep. In for four, out for seven…okay? Repeat.

Not pretty, is it? Day in, day out, constantly battling with the mind. Part of me is rational, the other half, totally irrational! I am constantly convincing myself that the worst is going to happen, removing myself from the present and into a place of panic. The fear of losing my loved ones, something bad happening to them (or myself) is constant. It’s exhausting.

When I started to jot my thoughts down, I felt ashamed; insane! I was like: there are actually people suffering out there, experiencing grief and pain and yet here I am, frolicking around in cuckoo land, skipping down the path of “self-inflicted” mental patterns! 

So yeah! Just in case you haven’t heard enough from my grim, depressing, melancholy-mind-merry-go-round, here’s a breakdown of what I typically obsess/panic/cry over on a daily basis:

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  1. Death: Whether it’s imagining my own death, or the many ways in which my loved ones might die – I’m constantly thinking about it. I think about my family, friends, coworkers and even my unborn babies dying. I think about how depressing life would be without them; which songs to play at their funeral and whether I should draft their eulogy.
  2. Health: I always diagnose myself with symptoms, which are usually quite sinister and extreme. Mostly I worry about cancer, but I also worry about conditions like multiple sclerosis, brain tumours, chronic fatigue and even bells palsy – which is the common cause of facial paralysis. Typically, I avoid the doctors, because I’m afraid to face “the true diagnosis”. When I do turn up, they usually fob off my symptoms without checking anyway, and I go back to my imagined place of eternal doom and gloom.
  3. Appearance: Acknowledging the way I speak, think and feel about myself is ultimately the saddest because I wouldn’t dare treat another person this way! I scrutinise my chin, face shape, body, arms, neck, stomach, stretch marks and all the other things which defy conventional “beauty” standards. I convince myself I’m masculine, despite knowing that I’m a woman.
  4. Happiness: When something good happens and I have something to look forward to, I don’t let myself feel excitement or joy. Instead, I hurtle straight in to panic and think about all the reasons why my happiness will be ruined. Holiday soon? Nahh babes your plane’s going to crash. New lover? He’ll move overseas soon and leave you. Pay rise? The Tax Man’s going to own you fam. Oh wait…

I’m aware that this post may be a trigger for those who face severe mental illness and/or have lost loved ones (as I have too, by the way). In this sense, anxiety can not only be crippling, but also embarrassing and shameful. We don’t talk about or acknowledge our negative thoughts because that’s all we brush them off as: thoughts! Thoughts in need of replacing and rewiring; thoughts worth forgetting: niggling, nuisance, thoughts.

I had a conversation with a friend recently, we discussed our anxiety and shared experience of panic attacks. She said something which made sense to me, which was that as primal beings, staying nervously alert whilst navigating through a (concrete) jungle, marked an instinctive will to survive. She said that based on our animalistic roots, humans are constantly sniffing out danger.

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The trouble is with being human, is that we can process our fear in to definitive words and thoughts, meaning that they can then manifest in to physical symptoms in the body.  It doesn’t matter how much we kid ourselves by posing as civilised members of society: our instinct is to protect ourselves (and our own) before finally reaching the finish line.

Mind blown.

This conversation, provided rationality toward my catastrophic thinking. Every time I now feel fear I play it back, to remind myself that nerves are all part of being alive. I understand this type of fear comes from a place of wanting to live; to experience life, with those I love; in as little pain as possible. It’s really not that crazy when I look at it this way.

Anxiety disorders can affect anyone. Facts.

If you’ve cultivated the belief that anxiety sufferers are only introverted, withdrawn; depressed loners: you’re wrong, baby! My case of anxiety never shows, but is felt. On the surface, I am an outgoing, fun-loving and confident young woman. I have a thriving work and social life, an abundance of meaningful relationships and I enjoy being alive completely.

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They say that when you have negative thoughts, you should counteract them using gratitude. And it’s true, there is much to be thankful for. I chose to write this post as a means to process and release. To let anyone know, who feels similarly, that they are not alone.

In the end, we’re all in the same boat together, trying our best to enjoy the ride; moving with the tide, in the hope that we will some day reach the shore, safely.

Wet for Dry Jan

It’s nearly Valentines Day and yet here I am, wishing my Boo-zy and Booze-free Readers a Happy New Year!

This is my first post of 2019 and I am hanging without the hangover, riding those waves without the whiskey; reading that prose without the rosé. (Well, you might be, I’m not).

2019 has thrown her head back, gripped those sheets and squeezed out a new me. I’m wiser. More sensible. Sober as day. I’ve been given the chance to redeem myself; focus on cleansing my hidden chakra. That’s right, you can catch me in a downward dog at 5am, snorting up dried Aloe Vera crumbs through a Tibetan windpipe and chanting to the God of Neroli.

Only fucking with you. But I did complete Dry January without a single drop of gin, or any other spirit for that matter.

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Remember Prose for my Brothers? I wrote that while drunk. Some halfwit made a micro-aggressively racist remark in front of me and I got so fucked off I ended up dowsing my liver in the good stuff ’til stars sprawled out before me. I woke up in the morning with smudgey-eyed mascara, 1 half eaten chicken nugget in my bed and a decent piece of writing.

Ghosted. Remember that tragedy? I was nursing the hangover from hell when I wrote that. I’d been drinking Negroni the night before (coincidentally the ghoster’s drink of choice), so when I woke up feeling like my skull had been plummeted with a lamb shank, it only felt right to write about him.

I drank more in 2018 than I probably did my whole life. After my job role changed, (and I suddenly gained access to the free bar), there wasn’t much stopping me. I was like Charlie in an adult Willy Wonka’s brewery; a golden ticket with “2 for 1” stamped across the front. My social life changed. Birthdays, dinners, casual work evenings; boozy-bingey weekend antics. It got to the point where I was drinking four times a week; hangovers were treated with KFC breakfasts and clammy duvet days. I got used to feeling tired, bloated and dehydrated allll the bloody (Mary) time.

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Being with people, drunk, allowed me to feel free. Any remaining thoughts of seriousness turned to silliness, and as the night would spiral out and wind down, I would end up slurring to my friends, declaring my love for them and projecting my inner most feelings.

No regrets there, either.

Towards the end of the year though. I did start to feel tired. Not the tired described above, but an on the brink of boredom tired. Bored of limiting myself to the same kind of social scenes. Bored of getting into a cab and suddenly feeling like everything was spinning, a sickness in my throat and stomach, doing everything in my power not to throw up.

I would stumble home, throw my belongings on the floor, guzzle 2 litres of water and wake up in the night desperately needing a piss. I would then just lay in bed, feeling incredibly sick and anxious, wondering if I’d ever get back to sleep again.

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That’s not my idea of fun.

Now, before you make hasty assumptions and think “What a sellout, joining the Dry Jan conga line to simply go bat-shit crazy come February 1st”, you’re very mistaken. To clarify, I broke Dry Jan on February 2nd and more importantly, I needed to remember what life was like before I started drinking.

I didn’t drink much during the Christmas period. I was turning down mulled wine offerings and steering clear of the Prosecco. Like I said, I was tired. Dry Jan was the perfect excuse to give myself a lengthy break. I needed it, mentally and physically, more than I’d anticipated.

During the first week of January, three of my closest friends came over for an evening of fun. I cooked dinner, made cocktails (mocktails for me) and pretty much watched my friends get smashed. It was fabulous. We danced, gossiped, debated; hugged, made silly voices over Snapchat filters, walked to the shop to buy wine (I was thrilled to find an alcohol-free blueberry cider), and stayed up until 4am. My friends didn’t care that I was sober and I didn’t care that they were drunk. What I learned? If you have a naturally annoying personality, you can adapt to annoying situations easily!

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I began to think of all the things I’d missed out on due to nursing hangovers. Afternoon walks, bike rides, coffee chats, morning yoga; DIY pamper sessions. I realised that being active is a wonderful way to release endorphins whilst keeping fit, something I’d thoroughly neglected, especially on weekends. I found myself cooking more, reading more; calling my friends rather than texting. I was reclaiming balance, which for me, is invaluable.

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One thing I really struggled with being constantly sober, was dealing with the heaviness of life. Things in my personal life were truly weighing me down. I started to focus on all the things I couldn’t fix; things out of my control. Specific incidents were pulling me into emotional turmoil and for the first time, I didn’t have the crutch of alcohol to lean on. I couldn’t drink a bottle of wine to forget the pain and spend the rest of my weekend in bed. I had to face things. I had to accept that life is hard: nobody and nothing can save us but ourselves.

I began to meditate, I returned to my roots of journaling and every thought and feeling was transferred on to paper.

I was experiencing life, sober.

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During my last week of Dry January, I went out for a team dinner. A few of my coworkers said “You’re almost there now – you may as well have one”. But I declined. I drank virgin Piña-coladas and watched my team dance and smash plates (to be fair, we were at a Greek restaurant).

After the meal, I desperately wanted to go home. I was tired and full, it had been a long day. Still, my coworkers went on to a bar and somehow convinced me to join.

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And then the unexpected happened.

Whilst the majority of my peers drank and let go, I sat in the corner with another coworker, and we spoke about our feelings. It was the type of conversation you would only have with a colleague when drunk. We talked of our lives, the highs and lows, and consciously lowered our guards.

This moment, for me, will forever be marked as mind-blowing. Why? Because for years I’d believed the enabling of profound, meaningful moments with “strangers” were based on the consumption of alcohol. Turns out humans who want to connect will find a way to do so, without any form of substance.

We don’t need alcohol to act our inner most desires; to dance, play, talk, kiss, fuck, laugh; cry – everything we wish to do is inside of us, sometimes we simply lack courage.

When I broke my Dry Jan on the 2nd Feb I did it right: with pink gin and vodka shots.I was surrounded by friends, some old, some new and didn’t feel like I was lacking any sort of control.

During my cab journey home I sipped water from a plastic cup and watched West London’s glittering skyline from the back of an Uber. The buildings were still and beautiful. Grenfell stood tall, a harrowing reminder of families lost and displaced; a negligent government with no remorse for its citizens: more vacant than the 24 storey building itself.

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And then there was me, rekindling with an intense drunken feeling. A feeling I’d missed so much.

I’m not a person who *needs* to drink (quite honestly, I don’t think anyone is), because I’m already mad as a hatter. In fact, I’ve been asked whether I’m drunk or high on so many sober days I’ve lost count now. Since dry-Jan I’ve been unintentionally drinking less. I went for brunch on Sunday and rather than ordering an Aperol Spritz, I ordered a latte. Why? Because that’s what I felt like drinking. When brunch was over my friend and I went for a drink elsewhere. I ordered a ginger-stemmed Kombucha (good gut health, apparently), and my friend a lemonade. We weren’t thinking about alcohol, but simply continuing the conversation.

Waking up without a hangover is bliss, stealing a strangers spectacles and calling oneself Arthur for the night is also bliss. The physical benefits of not drinking alcohol are immense, but then, so is living on raw broccoli and cauliflower stems.

Whatever makes you happy, I guess.

People drink for different reasons and in Britain, it’s a big part of our culture. So long as we’re not drinking to cope with everyday life and neglecting/forgetting ourselves, I think that’s OK. Dry January helped me conclude that people should live as they choose: with less fear, less judgement and MORE CONVERSATIONS! If you do find yourself feeling low, reach out to a friend before the bottle. A red wine carafe is always better when shared, anyway!

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GHOSTED

Blog Readers,

It’s been a while but I’ve been thriving, surviving, single and SWIPING.

DATING APPS: what a tragic time to be alive.

You know, every time something remotely unfortunate happens in my *less than impressive* love life, the sensitive, trusting, hopeful girl in me curls in a ball and wants to disappear. The ballsy, no-fucks, abrasive writer on the other hand thinks: I’m so glad he proved to be like all the rest, we about to go innnnn!

Like many other busy, bright and frankly amazing single women I know, I’ve had a truly unfortunate experience using dating apps. Tinder, Happn, Bumble and best of all, Hinge, are proving to be a fucking waste of my time. I swear, I’d be more likely to develop a meaningful relationship with a bag of frozen carrots than some of the men I’ve met.

I’ve been on several dates over the last two years and have many stories to tell: the guy who tried too much too soon, the guy who claimed to be a millionaire and fleeced me; the one who thought he could buy his way into my bed or worse, who thought his bed would make a good spot for a first date. Then there’s the guy who replied every 48 hours ’til I finally got the message and my personal favourite: THE GHOSTER.

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I was excited when I met a guy who seemed perfect on paper. So funny, so normal, so cute, so nice. All of the boxes were like check, check, check. Even my cynical Mother was like “Hmm, this one sounds more like boyfriend material”.

No pressure then.

Before our date, we spoke for three weeks. Messaging in the morning, messaging in the evening. Phone calls, pictures, voice-notes – even the occasional drunk call some nights. We didn’t meet straight away ’cause we were both working and traveling, but it felt like we were on the same page, opening up and getting along.

The trouble with online dating is you never fully know who’s going to turn up: will they be all you’ve hyped them up to be? Will you be all they’ve hyped YOU up to be? I guess that’s why it was so nerve-wracking when our first date arrived.

Well, we met and it was…nice. Were we trying to rip each others clothes off? No. But we spent four hours together which, to spend with a stranger, on a weekday, is a pretty long time. I didn’t feel the way I felt with my some of previous dates (extreme chemistry and physical attraction which didn’t lead anywhere serious). Instead, I felt at ease. I felt like this is a person I can talk to, who is actually listening. Someone shy and unsure, who’s got my attention. Am I in love with him? No. Am I in lust with him? No. But there could be something here, worth exploring.

At the end of our date we kissed and it was, again, nice.

We carried on talking as normal after that. Well, four days to be exact. Slowly though, he started pulling back. Less messages. Fewer replies. It got to the point where we went from speaking every day to not speaking for a week and I thought: he’s gonna gradually fizzle out ’til he feels safe enough to disappear completely.

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Now, to most people reading this, you might be thinking, what’s the big deal? Well, I guess there isn’t one if you’re okay with indirectness; not knowing where you stand or wondering what you’ve done wrong.

When you reach out to someone consistently over a chunk of time, they’ll get used to hearing from you. When you open up to them about your life, they’ll feel they can open up about theirs too. Or like, if you make grand predictions about your future together, you’ll pull them from the present.

Ghosting, is like leading someone up the garden path and pushing them into a well of self doubt.

I began to walk through all kinds of possibilities:

  • He’s probably just giving me space while I’m on holiday
  • He probably just wants his space while he’s on holiday
  • Maybe he’s playing hard to get
  • Maybe he’s lost his phone
  • Maybe he never had a phone and was borrowing someone else’s
  • Maybe his wife / girlfriend / boyfriend has returned from Nebraska
  • Maybe he thought we’d have sex that night
  • Maybe he thought I was too full on
  • Maybe he’s seeing like four, five other girls

Did I have to send him all those pics of my pasta? Did I need to be so “alpha-male” by paying for most of the drinks? Can’t I keep myself small, to prevent guys from being scared of my BIG?

Put me out of my misery already. I went against all of my friends advice and messaged him. His response told me everything I needed to know:

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Text 1: He made an excuse, but didn’t even bother to ask how I was doing. Why? Because he didn’t carrreeee. He was too busy feeling sorry for himself after taking ketamine all weekend. Me messaging him simply added to his self-inflicted problems.

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Text 2: Did he reply? Of course not. He was ghosting.

Despite letting all my mates down by not playing “the cool game”, I was glad I sent those messages. They set me free from myself, the lights went on.

And something clicked.

I believe every woman has a switching point, where we stop giving a fuck about people who don’t give a fuck about us. We start to reevaluate our relationship with self and realise it’s not even about the guy, it’s more about what WE’VE projected onto THEM. I’ve flicked that switch with every man I’ve ever liked or dated, it’s like sobering up from a night out and nursing yourself with food and sleep.

If you’ve ever been confused, misled or ghosted – just remember: there are plenty more fish in the sea. That fish you been trying to hook? Set it free into the ocean. Let it get eaten by sharks, or later served on a plate with wasabi.

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Just kidding. But think about it: if there are multitudes of sea life in the ocean, don’t be disheartened if you couldn’t reel a tiny fish in. Go for the biggest catch your rod allows and trust me, if your catch doesn’t even hold a *PLAICE* in his heart? Do you want him in your net?

Over time, I’ve been advised not to be too honest with men: “Don’t tell him you wanna get married or have kids, he’ll run a mile. “Don’t bring up anything that makes you sound depressed or insecure, it’ll probably be too heavy and he’ll think you’re a psycho. “Play the game by revealing as little about yourself as possible, when he’s finally yours you can show him how crazy you are”.

My bad, I didn’t realise I was a performing puppet in search of an all-male standing ovation.

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If you can’t handle me at my:                                                         You don’t deserve me at my:

After being emotionally misled and ghosted, I took all that great advice and binned it, along with every other guy who’s hurt my feelings.

I stopped appeasing online predators, no longer responding to sleazy one-liners with shy emojis, and started showing them my boundaries:

I started turning down dates with guys “looking for fun”, giving them clear, honest explanations as to why I didn’t wanna date them:

Sadly, I forgot some men love the chase and that such reactions would gage more interest:

My ghoster did eventually reappear, almost a week and a half later. He listed all my favourable attributes to soften the blow of his rejection. He didn’t realise that labels like “pretty”, “funny” and “awesome” were just another way of reinforcing his absence. He ended something before it began, because I was more interesting when I was two-dimensional.

All in all, I guess he didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Maybe he wanted to back out without contact in case he chose to reappear one day. Or maybe, he was scared to be seen in a bad light, thinking that saying nothing would be safer than saying something.

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If somebody ghosts you, burn some sage and close the windows. Delete your ghoster’s number along with any pictures they may have sent: nobody wants to be looking at that shit.

If your worth needs to be validated by anyone other than YOU, maybe it’s time you start giving yourself that much needed love you deserve. Remind yourself how worthy you are and fuck (not literally) anyone who doesn’t see you.

Keep in mind that ghosts aren’t real: if they disappear, they were never really there to begin with.

Write My Way Out

It seems like forever since I got lost beneath a sea of words, paragraphs flowing, ideas relentless. 

Writers block: it’s the worst. I’ve had it for what seems like months now and it’s been weighing me down like a mental fatigue. Every time I have an idea I shy away from it, the lights are off; no one’s home.

Guilt eats at me with every blip. I have drafts sitting in my WordPress which I can’t seem to revisit. Why do I choose to write? Do I even still enjoy it, or am I determining “success” based on how others see me? Are my blogs a creative outlet, or simply used as evidence that I too, am consistent. That I too, have ambition.

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In a way, I miss being sad – like sad to the point that the only thing stopping my tears are words, released. When I’m sad, like really, really sad – I write my way out of sadness. And when I’m angry, I hold up words like a shield or a sword et voila, a masterpiece is born….

….Maybe not, but it’s definitely cathartic.

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Seeing short stories I’ve poured my heart and soul into rejected time and time again have bruised my ego and made me react like “Well, I never wanted you that much any way”. Maybe, my reason for not being able to write is fear of rejection.

Evidently, I care too much what people think.  It’s as if I’m unconsciously following trends, only believing something looks good when everyone else is wearing it. Not feeling good enough in the eyes of the reader, a thought process which hinders not only my creative flow but plays out into everyday life.

I give thanks every day, for all the things that aren’t promised: my mother, family, friends, health, life; livelihood. In a way, this awakened gratitude provides yet another excuse to ditch the word flow. Often, my blogs are an inspired reaction to negative thought. Things I have little control over suddenly seem clear once I’ve written them down.

I guess I haven’t felt inclined to process so much heaviness. I’ve been enjoying a content cruise along nonchalance. Even though I still have the occasional daymare about something bad happening; an irrational fear that my headache is a brain tumour, or, a strong reaction to politics, I’ve mostly been lapping up the good stuff. Friends, family, work; PARTIES. It’s been helpful taking a break.

It’s easy to obsess over the past and future, despite wanting to stay present. Sometimes I want to just BE and sharing my reflections can prohibit that.

A friend suggested I write about how happy I am: everyone I love is OK, I have an awesome job, life is one big great adventure! Well – I can’t think of anything worse than boring my readers with a conceited prose of optimism. For starters, no one likes a show off (I  have a deep-rooted “like me” complex) and furthermore, I want my words to be relatable, to talk about the feelings we share but don’t necessarily reveal.

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Making the choice to write is difficult. It’s like setting oneself homework knowing that no-one’s around to mark the paper. I have to proof read my own work and sometimes don’t spot mistakes until months later, believing I’ve let myself down. Plus, once I have published something, I’d rather never read it again. It’s a bit like watching yourself played back on camera: the whole experience can feel demeaning.

 

Writing has been a loyal friend to me over the years. As a child, my mother was anti-television and I had no choice but to create. My brother proved to be a fantastic artist and can draw almost anything in intricate, precise detail.

I was 5 when I wrote my first rhyme.

6 when I wrote my first story.

7 when I started my first journal.

9 when I received my first publication (a poem, about autumn).

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Aged 10, I wrote my first book “Angela”. I’d come home every day from school and head straight upstairs to write. I didn’t care to eat, play, sleep. I was obsessed: a girl with dedication.

My mum found the book in a box of old junk and insisted I read it. When I did, I was surprised. I discovered I was a child who embraced emotion and had an outlet to process them. When my mother asked if I felt proud, I really did. I’d spent my entire school life believing I was stupid thanks to the majority of my teachers treating me as such. 

 

I’m always consciously transparent in my writing which can leave me feeling open and exposed. That said, I guess it’s perfectly fine to take a break when I need it; to vacate from something I’ve been doing since I was able to hold a pen.

I’m going to end this by questioning one more time, why I choose to write? The answer is simple. I write, because I can.

Prose for my Brothers

Little brothers,

I couldn’t write this piece without you.

I attempted a detached prose but saw red. Fury. I clenched my jaw and surrendered, cried. Why? I was only able to get the words out when addressed to you directly.

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When I was 8, your mum – my step-mum – asked what I’d like for dinner and in jest I replied: “Haha you’re our slave”. That day was the first time I’d ever seen your mother cry and the first time our dad slapped me. When it happened, I wasn’t sure why what I’d said caused such a stir. I hadn’t yet learned about racism or oppression. I was unconscious to a pain mapped so far back and yet with us in the present and well, let’s just say my heart cried that day too.

I want so badly to wrap you in cotton wool but I can’t and it bugs me. I feel frustrated that I won’t always be there to protect you from certain behaviours: micro-aggressions fuelled by racism: piercing through your hearts and minds. The fact I will never know how it feels to be a young black male means I write this with objective stance: an outsider. Your experiences will ultimately be your own – but if you need me, I’ll be there.

Lesson number one: people are ugly. Not all of them, but many.

Real ugliness shares no correlation with the physical form, no. Ugliness is found in the depiction of backward attitudes, racial bias; superiority,  brutality; venom and hate. Sometimes, even those with good intentions, even those you consider your own, will show you something ugly.

I’ve had many encounters with ugly people and I’d like to share some with you. For instance, every time our family would eat out in predominantly South-Asian, London-based areas, the undercurrents became so tense we’d find ourselves gasping for air.  We’ve had people stare at us, slur insults, shake their heads disapprovingly, unable to comprehend how a brown skinned man could marry an East African woman. Morons. 

You’re part Indian, so it’s important to be aware of India’s complex caste systems: hierarchical structures, categorising citizens based on race, religion and class. As a result of this, the fairer you are the more you’re deemed worthy. Cosmetic stores in India are plastered with “Fair and Lovely”, a well known product promoting the gradual increase of lighter skin. I know it’s disheartening – but change is coming. Men and women have finally started to protest condemnation of their skin; taking a stance through progressive ideas and knowledge. You only have to look at our immediate family to know not all hope is lost.

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Sharing the love: My mama & you

But we’re not perfect. I’ve had relatives warn not to date black men; remarks made on the texture of your (beautiful) hair and questions such as “Is your dad still living with ‘that black woman’?” hurled at me. You’re probably wondering why I’m sharing all this? Well, the world isn’t free of hate just yet. Old habits die hard, leaving room for the small and closed-minded. Over time and because of this: ties have been cut, relationships severed. Besides, anyone who rejects you, rejects us all. 

I saw a bunch of young (mostly black) teenagers waiting for the bus one day and folks were literally jumping out of their way, panicked. The kids were all sporting football boots and gym bags: obviously just finished training. I thought of you and my heart raced, as they politely made way for me to pass.

The media is largely responsible for racist stereotypes. Shows I grew up with fell from grace, as I made note of scarce and damaging representations. Biased newspaper headlines and blasphemous articles, racial typecasts and narrow on-screen representations have all been contributors towards mass brainwashing. We, the onlookers, have soaked up so many limited ideas over the years and it is up to us dissect and decipher the truth. 

I also saw my West African friend – barely tipsy – being refused entry to a club. My other friend – caucasian and paralytic – crawled his way in. I challenged management, who gave the whole “Yeah but our bouncers are black so how can we be racist?” spiel. Sometimes, the fear is so far ingrained you’ll start to notice self-condemnation. 

I tense up when people fawn over your hair, even when they do so with admiration. I don’t want you to ever feel like your features make you human exhibitions and have spent much of my time observing your reactions. Most of the time you seem delighted. Still, if the actions of others ever makes you feel uncomfortable, you don’t have to succumb to politeness. You should speak your truth. 

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I promise to work on myself, as I already try to do often. If I find myself generalising, I’ll correct my thoughts. If I make a judgement, I’ll question my reasoning. If I begin to stereotype, I’ll ask myself why. I will constantly acknowledge any inauthentic thought, unconsciously absorbed; unfair and untrue.

Sometimes, I want to cover your ears, so you won’t ever have to hear racist slurs at football matches.

Sometimes, I want to cover your eyes, so you won’t read headlines highlighting race over incident.

Sometimes, I want to march into your school and interrogate your teachers, for forcing you to cut your hair.

Which is beautiful, as I said. 

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The truth is, one day you will consciously take heed of racism. You’ll acknowledge its existence like an uninvited guest and wonder, like myself, when the fuck it’s going to leave.

I imagine when you’re grown, we’ll share political consciousness. I wonder what experiences you may’ve had by then and how you may’ve dealt with them. Will you communicate your pain or remain indifferent? However you choose to deal and process, I’ll make sure your feelings are heard.

Little brothers, your views and feelings count. If you feel something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. And if you find yourselves feeling lost, falling? I’ll be here, arms open. 

Pretty Woman: Deconstruction

You know, had I written my 2011 dissertation with the same bitter knowledge of widespread misogyny (both on and off-screen), I’m sure I would have seen that 2.1 into a first. Poor Garry Marshall, it’s a pity I was still wearing nappies during the debut of his 4.6* million box office hit, Pretty Woman, 1990.

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I recently sat through 2.5 excruciating hours of what I can only describe as jaw-clenched fury; being an adult, understanding the media’s intention to mass-manipulate and project sexist ideals. Now that I know myself; the role I play both in and out of society; no amount of cinematic technique will have me fawn over men like Edward Lewis.

Vivian Ward did a great job of that though.

My infuriation rose after making the god awful decision to undergo the ‘Miami Backyard Cinema’ experience – basically a room transformed into “Miami Beach”, using falsified sand and props. It wasn’t awful because it was based on the other side of London, or even because it was overpriced and crammed. It was awful because I’d revisited one of my favourite childhood films and realised I’d been duped.

As I sat there, sinking into an oversized bean bag; feet buried beneath a cold layer of sand and balancing a £12 Piña colada bottle, I promised myself I would watch the film again at home, in an attempt to rip the literary shit out of it.

You’re gonna hate me Marshall.

Perfect timing, considering all the Hollywood wackos who’ve recently been named and shamed. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, John Lasseter, Nick Carter, Ryan Seacrest, Jeff Epstein, Sylvester Stallone and Ed Westwick are among the never-ending list of creeps accused of sexual misconduct. You have to give it to them though: these white collared, high-flying, money-driven, ego-centric, sadistic males – so built up by Hollywood they believe they can do whatever they like and to whom. A culture in favour of misogynistic machoism: where women are as seen as inferior sexual objects and treated as such.

Pretty Woman begins with Richard Gere as Edward Lewis, a wealthy entrepreneur undergoing a failed relationship. Finding himself in the centre of Hollywood Boulevard’s red light district, Ed meets sex worker Vivian, played by Julia Roberts. There is a bittersweet contrast of rags meets riches here, with Edward being the epitome of success and Vivian, a struggling prostitute.

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After a bizarre first meeting (where Ed lets Viv drive an acquaintance’s car) the pair check into a hotel where they proceed to have a “magical” time. I say magical, in the sense that Ed is the key-holder to extravagance – he offers his guest strawberries and champagne on arrival – which is clearly goosebump-inducing. It is during this scene, that the viewer gains insight to Ed’s pre-formed low opinion: he accuses Viv of taking drugs before realising she is actually hiding dental floss.

The scene ends with Viv watching a black and white movie, head tilted in delight. It’s clear she has never encountered such worldly opulence, impressed with everything from the room to the refreshments. She then transpires to make a move on Lewis, crawling over to his side & “going down” until fade out. The music and lighting – indicative to romance – hides the narratives true seedy undertones.

The next morning, Ed encourages Viv to stay longer. They negotiate from $300 dollars a night to $3000 for six. Vivian is ecstatic: it is clearly the most money she has ever earned in such a short space of time. She feels lucky to suddenly be surrounded by wealth; that “high-quality” people are now paying her attention. The film encourages a belief that wealth marks human value; that people who are “somebodies” should own high-end wardrobes and know how to use cutlery.

The arrogance which radiates off Ed’s persona becomes quickly tiresome. He is constantly testing, controlling and telling Viv how to behave: warning signs of mental abuse. An example of this is is when he leaves her in the hotel room, calls up and tells her not to answer. Two minutes later, he rings back and states “I told you not to pick up the phone” to which she swoons in delight. I wanted to punch him.

“Stop fidgeting, get rid of your gum”.

Ed has the ability to manipulate and control those around him through money and power. Viv, who’s only ever been treated as less-than, is all for it. For instance, the famous shopping scene where she’s rejected based on her attire. The moment Ed realises his guest has been turned away, he takes her to a new department store and starts flaunting social status, demanding that the clerks  “suck up” to her.

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But wait, why has he sent her to Rodeo Drive in the first place? Couldn’t he have asked his driver to collect her things? Aside from what we’d hope to be practicality, it’s no secret that Ed’s embarrassed of Vivian. The moment they initially enter the hotel, he covers her up with his coat.

“Vivian, come back, I am speaking to you”. 

Key moments in the film where Viv actually makes an impression, are the ones where she’s “transformed”.  Ed holds little regard for Viv’s inner being, so it’s no surprise that his eyes light up when she’s dressed to perfection. Scenes where he takes her for dinner, or to the opera, where she’s dressed immaculately from head to toe…

…Is the way to a mans heart through a woman’s wardrobe?

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What about the never-ending slew of scenes where Viv dotes on Edward? He comes home and she’s naked with the table set. Viv runs a bath and bathes him with a sponge. He’s in a mood so she bangs him on the piano. I mean, are you sure this isn’t a psychological horror?!

And what about Ed’s creepy lawyer-friend? Philip Stuckey (Jason Alexander), is a character intended to be a jerk. It’s clear from the get go he’s attracted to Viv, so when Ed discloses his date is “actually a hooker”, Phil has a field day throwing taunts at her. But what’s Ed’s excuse? Was it necessary for him to open his mouth in the first place? Why did he bring Viv to a polo game to ignite humiliation?

“I never had anyone make me feel as cheap as you did today”.

“Somehow I find that hard to believe”.

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Nearing the end of the film, Viv tells Ed she loves him. The following day, he says he’s moving to New York, but that he’ll cover her finances.

Vivian feels hurt because he’s assumed throwing money will offer contentment. She reveals this drippy story, about her dream to be rescued by a knight on a white horse. Despite their first meeting, where Vivian appears bold and independent, here we realise she is actually naive; desperate for a mans validation.

“It’s a really good offer for a girl like me”.

The most horrific scene in the film shows creepy Philip at Viv’s hotel room, furious at Ed’s change of heart regarding a business deal. Accurately blaming this change on Viv’s influence, Phil punches her in the face and attempts to rape her. Ed, sticking to his title of hero, catches his friend, socks him in the jaw and throws him out the room…

….I guess this is the moment where Ed deserves a crown, right?

Wrong!

Ed comfortably throws his friend out of the room, and then what happens? Why doesn’t he inform the police? Why has Ed allowed a potential rapist to walk free? What’s the message here, that successful business men are condemned to act obscenely and get away with it? That a sock in the jaw is sufficient punishment for a rapist? Fuck. That. Shit.

….And don’t even get me started on Pretty Woman’s narrow representations. Off the top of my head I recall just two black characters during the entire film: Ed’s driver and the hotel concierge. It may have been the 90’s, but the racial typecasting made my blood boil. The subtext portrayed by Marshall is acutely perverse: where women and black men are inferior to wealthy white business men, that their place is beneath them, quite literally.

The fact that Vivian is a prostitute gives Marshall freedom to both disrespect and construct his ideal woman. Clever, because he wouldn’t have been slammed for it. That he then falls in love with her, shows the viewer what “men” really want: a beautiful sex slave, whose emotional needs are secondary.

Once deemed a classic, this light-hearted, rom-com masterpiece is now shown for what it is: a dick flick, and not the stuff from fairytales. No longer a piece I respect or admire; Pretty Woman is a reflection of the ugliness hidden beneath a gabardine suit.  And yes, whilst it may have been released in 1990, the critique for Edward Lewis is more prevalent than ever.

28 Reasons

Life, a magical field of existence where all living things parasite off of the earth with no real purpose, other than to presumably procreate. Despite endlessly feeling befuddled as to what I’m doing here, one of the greatest life joys I’ve experienced is having a supportive, uplifting; mad-as-ever group of friends. Each one brings something unique and wonderful, however today I’ve decided to dedicate a post to just one…28th September baby, let’s give it up for the birthday girl!

Three. That’s how old I was when I met her. I don’t remember much about our first meeting, but I do remember spending my first few school years plotting her death. We would fight so much that our mothers would get called frequently and letters would be sent home. Understandably, we were advised to stay away from each other but alas, we were destined to be.

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Joanna: the irritating, blonde-fringed girl with freckles on her face. Invited to each and every one of my birthdays: keep your friends close, enemies closer. Loud, boyish, outspoken and bold, everything about her annoyed me. I used to cry post-haircuts, scared she’d rip the shit out of me and – when she did – I would yell  “BITCH” so loud that all our peers would gasp in shock! Suckers.

Had somebody informed me then, that she would prove to be the most consistent, loyal and selfless friend I’d ever have, I probably would have jumped from the climbing frame there and then.

Our relationship changed during high school, because we were dealing with a whole new kettle of bullshit: bullies, boyfriends, rebellion; hormones. Astonishingly, the moment we upgraded uniforms, we upgraded the way we treated each other. We became each others point of reference; with our days of fallouts firmly behind us, we built a solid friendship, unquestionably rare.

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If friends were graded, Joanna would sail through every subject from A* to distinction. This post is in celebration of her 28th birthday, with 28 reasons as to why I am the luckiest friend alive!

  1. She’s neutral.

I’ve had some nasty fallouts over the years and Joanna’s always stayed neutral. Never has she encouraged bad vibes, or involved herself in my battles. Instead, she’s reflected opposing sides without forming any judgement. At times I’ve found this severely frustrating because the ego wants to be “right”. In hindsight, her stance has been most helpful in remaining diplomatic.

2. She protects my fragile heart, *violin*.

Six years ago I was crazy in love with a guy who couldn’t spare a flying fuck.  Upon discovering his infidelities with numerous partners, I was so heartbroken I lay in bed sombre and lifeless; unwilling to get up. Joanna was the friend who got me out of bed, said “Come on, life goes on” and treated me to a pedi. At the time it didn’t mend my broken heart, but it certainly made my toes sparkle.

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3. She’s with me for the ride.

Over the past few years I’ve moved house three (almost four) times and Jo’s been there for every single one. From lifting boxes to driving to unpacking, she’s been there, without question. 

4.  She’s a handy-wo-man.

Jo is one of the most practical human beings I’ve ever met – if there’s a problem – she’ll fix it. From transferring stencils on the wall to unscrewing lightbulbs or climbing shelves: she knows how to get the job done. 

5.  She’s my hairstylist. 

Not to be trusted with an eyeliner, Jo does my hair beautifully. French plaits, buns, fishtails: this girl is the hairstyle queen.

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6. She’s a comedian.

Joanna. Is. Hilarious. I can’t recall a single time I haven’t laughed in her company. Even when things have fallen apart around us: laughter’s prevailed, the best remedy for anything.

7. She’s effortlessly thoughtful.

On my 21st birthday I went to Bournemouth for a messy weekend. Joanna decorated our room with banners and balloons, going out of her way to make me feel special. #AwYouShouldntHave

8. She’s always there.

I had a nasty, invasive procedure last year and despite her own commitments, my girl booked the day off and took me to hospital. She even went as far as to bring me home and spend the day with me, making sure that I felt fine. 

9. She loves my mum.

This probably sounds like a weird one, but the relationship between my two leading ladies is so special. My mum says Joanna has a heart of gold and watching their bond warms my heart. 

10. She keeps it real.

I don’t have to worry about Jo talking behind my back ’cause if I upset her, she’ll tell me. As difficult as it is telling people how and if they hurt you, there’s something relieving about being able to be direct with each other. It shows trust. 

11. She’s always on time.

…And I don’t mean in terms of “let’s meet for coffee at 3pm”. If something big is happening, negative or positive, I know exactly who’ll be there. #Teamworkmakesthedreamwork

12. She’s got bottle.

During secondary school I was constantly being harassed by older girls! I remember one time the bullies tried to “befriend” her & Jo made it clear she would never be interested. #ByeFelicias

13. She’s kept all my secrets despite having a big mouth.

Much like myself, Jo finds it difficult to contain newsworthy information. I in particular am a renown over-sharer (the proof is in the blog), so when it comes to each other; our pain and our regrets; we keep our lips sealed. #ThanksBoo

14. She’s never left me in a vulnerable state.

14 years old, just discovered vodka. We were on our way to a house party and I chugged it down with no concept of units. To this day, I can’t remember how we got home (I just remember waking up with vomit in my hair and a missing phone). Still, somebody got me back safely that night…guess who I woke up next to?

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15. She’s charitable.

The charity case being me of course (although she has done frequent runs for cancer). The amount of hairdryers, chargers, phones and clothes Jo has thrown my way over the years is staggering. I mean, she could have easily sold that stuff on Ebay but nope, here I am, free-balling.

16. She’s accepting.

Jo doesn’t get mad (albeit surprised) when I “borrow” something of hers and wear it in front of her six years later. To be fair it wouldn’t fit her now anyway, girl’s got the body of a goddess.

17. She listens.

And I mean really listens. It doesn’t matter how trivial the issue, if I need to vent, I know I’ll have an ear.

18. She checks in.

If I’ve had a bad week or day, she’ll make it a point to check in and see what’s up. Bear in mind this is a person who works full time, has a child, a head full of tasks and yet still, spares several thoughts for me. She even feels guilty when she feels she’s been “slacking”. #YouGottaStopDoingThatBoo

19. She acknowledges my inner child.

Back to my 21st: I was secretly eyeing up this massive pink unicorn and Jo did everything she could to win it. At the time I was certain her efforts were to appease her daughter – which they were – only Jo won two which means I got one! #HipHipHooray

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20. She’s inspiring and smart.

No really, she’s one of the cleverest girls I know: quick witted, sharp; practical. Aged sixteen, Jo was the first to go out and got a job. She was also the first to pass her driving test. #TaxiPlease

21. She’s supportive.

Jo has read and shared practically every single one of my blogs under zero obligation. I never expect my friends to read OR share my work, but over the past two years she’s emitted constant support and exposure. As a writer, I can’t tell you how invaluable that is  – all we want is for our words to reach people – and without shares that can’t happen.

22. She’s inclusive.

I swear I’m her honorary adoptee. I get invited to all the big family dos, even Christmas sometimes! #ThanksBabeButIGotEnoughPeopleToSpendOn

23. She’s thoughtful.

This girl just kills me with it. I came home after traveling for 18 hours and Jo snuck in beforehand to make sure my fridge wasn’t empty. *She didn’t break in, bitch has a key.

24. She shares the limelight.

This is definitely where we differ. My birthday’s in October, hers September, and I always plan the celebrations wayyyyy in advance. Arguably self-centered, Joanna is regardlessly happy to hear my plans with enthusiasm, even before considering her own.

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25. She’s not a hater.

You can really see if someone’s happy for you by looking in their eyes. That stab of jealousy, or even disbelief. I guess it’s normal to have moments of envy, but not Jo. Every success I have is received by her as if she were my mother: full of pride and excitement. #SheIsJustSoCute

26. She hates being a burden.

Not that she could ever be one. Still, like chalk and cheese, Joanna is not the kind of person to vent her plight: she is a private, problem solver. Most of all, she hates the idea of people worrying about her and in that sense, she is utterly selfless.

 

27. Her kindness soothes my soul.

Joanna is the epitome of health, but has never once made me feel bad about my body, nor compared our physical differences. Over the years I’ve had “friends” discuss whether or not they find me pretty in the morning (I mean, can you name a person who is?), whether I look nice without makeup (better than your mum mate) and made multiple jibes about my size.

Thankfully, I’ve never had to worry about all that shit with her. Why? Because she’s comfortable in her own skin and that makes ME feel comfortable. 

28. We have snuggle time.

Okay not really, although I totally would if she let me. When we have sleepovers (yes, sleepovers still happen), her partner gets sent to the sofa and guess who bags the double?! Not only is this more comfortable, but it also means I get to hear her sleep-talking. Her one and only flaw. 

Man that was easy, I should waited for her to turn 40.

I realised something extremely important about my friendship with Joanna over the years. Not only have I taken her friendship completely for granted (the way one might with their siblings; parents), but her qualities have provided something real and constant. I couldn’t fail the test of friendship with Jo because I’ve mirrored her: she brings out the best in me.

When I think about the sort of men I used to date, they could never be my friends. If I were lucky enough to “find someone” who had even 3/4 worth of Jo – I’d have found a mate for life. Anyway, who cares about all that when you have a friend like mine. Knight or no knight, I’m counting my blessings in the form of twenty-eight.

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