Tag Archives: love

I (Broken) Heart London

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Hello, dear reader.  How’s it going?  Anyone taken the plunge and turned their central heating on yet?

Last week my friend Abi and I went for a catch up, which is always a lovely thing to do, because Abi is marvellous.  She and I met on an appalling theatre tour in 2013, and ever since then we’ve been a very good team in a crisis. This was especially important last week because we’d both been through a pretty rough time.  Lowlights included moving house under sad circumstances (Abi), trapping thumbs in train doors (me), and getting our hearts trodden on (both of us).  Don’t worry, I won’t go into details.  Unless you want to know about the thumb-trapping thing, which is so embarrassing that it’s automatically funny.

Anyway, our conversation moved from the specifics of our own failed romances to the general way that dating in London seems to go these days: matching, chatting, meeting, dating and then…nothing.  Technology has made it frighteningly easy for people to disappear just as soon as you think things are going somewhere. Not an encouraging prospect.  Setting aside the fact that love is being left mostly to apps nowadays, the whole new relationship thing does seem to have lost a bit of its charm.

“Where are the flowers?”  Abi demanded.  “Flowers used to be a thing, right?  But when did any of us last get flowers?”
“Er…I got some the other day.”
“What?! From who?”
“Well…my sister.  And she was trying to cheer me up about getting dumped, so…” “Doesn’t count really, does it?”
“Nope.”

Generations gone by had rules and systems: courting, proposals, betrothedness. (“Is that a word?” “Too late, she’s said it now.” “Shall we…?” “No, best let her carry on. You’ll only confuse her if you interrupt.”) Our parents and grandparents knew what they were doing, because love in times gone by was a practised dance: everyone knew the rules and which move came next in the sequence. Love in times present is more like a Harlem Shake video, where there are no rules and no discernible moves at all.

Part of the problem, Abi and I decided, is the euphemistic nature of relationships: “dating”, “seeing each other”, “taking things slowly”, etc. I’m all for people discarding labels that don’t work for them, but there is no allowance for progress. No one wants to admit that, eventually, they’d really like a nice partnership with another human being.

Abi told me about a friend of hers who is originally from Germany, and how the non-committal dating scene of London horrifies her. In Germany, this friend says, people go on five dates, kiss, and then they are in a relationship. No tricks, no games, no messing around. Those are the rules. I admit that these rules might not work for everyone, but I like the idea of a structure, of development. Couples who are working towards something as a pair of people who are interested in each other, rather than two individuals who are competing to see who can be less emotionally invested.

I have a group of friends who live in the Highlands, and they are all in happily married couples.  I’m not suggesting that they don’t have problems, or that their relationships have all been super easy, but they have all invested time and energy into making their relationships work.  During my last visit my friend Robyn joked that the only reason for that is, in that part of Scotland, there is nothing else to do.  She was being silly to make me feel better about being single, which I love her for, but I wonder whether there might actually be something in what she said.  Are the men and women of London so distracted by their jobs, pop-up bars, house-warming parties, Oyster cards and Buzzfeed articles that we can’t focus on each other for more than five minutes?  Is there any way to find a half-way point between being busy and being in love?

“Like, half-way between London and Inverness?” Abi asked when I brought this up.

“Yeah,” I said, and then realised something.  “Actually no, because that means we have to move to Blackpool.”

Have an amazing day, gorgeous reader.  Abi and I are both fine, by the way.  We’re certainly not moving to Blackpool just yet.

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Dear Future Spouses

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Dear reader, I won’t lie to you.  I have reached The Wedding Age.

TWA is not, thank modern life and all its socially advanced attitudes, a self-inflicted notion of when I should be tying the knot.  I really, really could not give a flying fudge about when “they” (who ARE “they”, anyway?) think that I should be committing my life to a relationship.  It’s actually something that most of us are probably pretty familiar with: the age at which we realise we are spending most of our weekends at idyllic country mansions watching our friends get hitched, whereas we used to spend our weekends watching football, drinking, playing video games or indeed all of the above.

I’m really enjoying TWA so far.  My friends are wonderful people who deserve to be happy, and their weddings are, almost without exception, extremely joyful occasions.  My only qualm with TWA right now is that I am also careering headfirst into the world of bridesmaid duties, travelling long distances in high heels and investing extortionate amounts of money in waterproof mascara.  I am also, heaven help us all, being asked for my opinion on wedding things.  For example, a very close friend of mine recently said that she would like this song to be part of her wedding ceremony:

Now, here is the worrying thing: one of my first thoughts was genuinely “isn’t this song a bit unrealistic?  I mean, isn’t it a bit much to ask men to be nice to us for, like, the rest of our lives?”

Shock, horror and other negative forms of surprise abounded as soon as this thought had formed.  What the hell kind of feminist am I to question what women deserve in their marriages?  What on earth did the Pankhursts fight so hard for, if not women’s essential self-worth?  And for heaven’s sake, why hasn’t someone made a mash up of this song with Olly Murs’ “Dance With Me Tonight”?!

Let’s be honest: no one can be nice the entire time.  It’s not a sustainable way to behave and, even if you could sustain permanent affability, your friends and loved ones would start to suspect that you were a robot sent to spy on them.  No one, male or female, can spend their whole lives being unfailingly kind, understanding and romantic.  Having said that, the message of Meghan Trainor’s jaunty tune is basically a good one: we need to have high standards for ourselves.

Relationships are hard, and being in love can be a very messy business.  But if we want to spend the rest of our lives with another human being, we should a) be honest with them about how we would like to be treated, b) give them realistic expectations of what we are like on bad as well as good days, and c) marry the person who wants to treat us well forever more.

Hey: remember that amazing rom-com about that girl who met a guy who flirted with her a bit, replied to her texts after a few days and was a bit stand-offish with her friends?  And then after some clumsy dates and a few awkward advances they got together, moved in because one of their leases was about to end and the guy proposed when the girl half-jokingly pressured him into it?  And then their marriage petered out into a cordial but essentially passionless co-existence?  No?  Of course you don’t.  That, my dearest and most gorgeous reader, is because really excellent relationships and marriages are formed by people who work as a team and make each other the best that they can be.  They are not formed by people who are desperately trying to navigate the complicated world of mixed messages, passive aggression and emotionally distant game-playing.  People who really want you won’t push you away, and even if your loved one falls short every once in a while, the important thing is that they want to be good enough for you.  Trying to love someone well is better than being eligible for a mortgage application.

I sincerely hope that, if you are planning or hoping to marry one day, your future spouse will treat you the way Meghan Trainor wants to be treated.  More importantly, I hope that they want to.

Have a cracking Sunday evening, team.  Don’t let the end-of-weekend blues get you down.

10 Lessons Not to Learn from Twilight

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Hello, dear reader.  How’s the world been treating you recently?

We all have guilty pleasures, don’t we?  We watch television shows that we know will not enlighten us, and we listen to music that makes us feel uncool (anyone for a 90s pop binge?).  Among the most worrying of these little weaknesses is my generation’s tendency to watch unrealistic and emotionally demanding romantic films.  Sure, a decent rom-com can be uplifting and life-affirming, but most of these movies are designed to make us believe that if you don’t look like Katherine Heigl then no man will ever be able to look past your character flaws.  Even worse, they make us think that you can be as much of a prat as you like AS LONG as you are physically stunning.

The worst (and most dreadfully acted) of these culprits is the Twilight series.  I freely admit to owning the books and having watched the films, but I’m not proud of that.  In many ways, the series is the definitive guilty pleasure.  You might think that it’s a harmlessly gormless tale of supernatural pretty people, but it’s actually pretty offensive and worrying in the “lessons” that it tries to teach us.  Here are the most disturbing ones:

1) You can be UNBELIEVABLY annoying as a person, breathing in weird places, mumbling and not finishing sentences and boys will find you fascinating.

2) If a guy is pushing you away it is definitely because he loves you TOO much, and/or is trying to save your life.

3) You should always date the most dangerous guy you can find.  If no bloodsucking immortals are available, the nearest mythological beast will do.

4) Get married as soon as possible, without considering a career, travel or further education.  Why bother with anything self-fulfilling when a pretty boy wants you?

5) It is totally ok to string someone along as long as you don’t enjoy hurting them.

6) Everyone you know secretly fancies you.  You literally cannot step out of the front door without heartsick men swooning at your feet.

7) Your boyfriend’s family (and basically everyone else you know) should be regularly required to risk their lives for you, and fight other scary monsters just to save your skin.

8) Never, ever smile. You’ll get wrinkles and your boyfriend will be baffled by your sudden lack of brooding sulkiness.

9) The world revolves around you.

10) Vampires and shit like that are definitely real.

There is nothing wrong with having guilty pleasures as long as we know how to distance ourselves from them.  There is nothing wrong with watching/reading stupid stories like Twilight as long as we ignore pretty much everything they have to say, and pay attention instead to people who say awesome things, like Dave Grohl:

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Have a glorious day, lovely reader.  Maybe get yourself a fancy sandwich for lunch.

You Are Not A Casserole

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Hello, you fabulous human being.  How’s this week been for you?  Busy?  Me too.  Put your feet up for a bit.

One of the most enjoyable experiences in life is the overheard conversation snippet.  You know the sort of thing: you’re walking past a couple of friends who are in the middle of an in depth chat, and as you pass you hear one of them say something insane like “…and then the whole thing went bright blue!”  Not knowing the context of a conversation can make for very confusing and amusing listening.

The other day I was sitting outside a pub with a couple of my lovely girl friends, discussing life, the universe and everything (i.e. boys).  Don’t get me wrong – my friends and I cover many fascinating and intelligent topics of conversation on a regular basis, but even the most sassy and savvy of us occasionally need to rant about the opposite sex.  On this occasion, one of my friends was asking for advice about a guy she thinks she’s dating, but isn’t sure.  Here is an extract from the discussion:

“He’s going to house-sit with me at the weekend, and he took me out for an amazing dinner, and he calls me “his girl”…”
“Well, that sounds promising.”
“Yeah, really promising.”
“But what does it MEAN?!”

And so on and so forth.  Despite being clever, worldly, independent and hopefully fairly likeable young women, my friends and I are still flummoxed by what men’s behaviour “means” more often than we’d like to admit.  We have all – including you, fabulous reader – learned a lot during our short stays on Earth so far, including our strengths, weaknesses and alcohol tolerance levels.  Why then have we not learned something very simple, something that even tiny children understand: that we only get answers by asking questions?

It’s not as easy as all that, I know.  And we’ve talked about this before: the importance of being emotionally honest even though it feels so alien to us, the terror we feel when we have to be frank about what we want, and the excruciating embarrassment we feel about having strong feelings at all.  Needing an answer from someone, whether they’re male or female, has somehow started to mean that we are needy full stop.  Not to the person we’re confused about, necessarily, but definitely in our own heads.  And so we don’t ask; we just stew.

What the conversation boiled down to – if you’ll excuse the appalling pun – is that stewing does nobody any good.  In the heat of our debate about the virtues of honesty and openness, I ended up declaring “YOU ARE NOT A CASSEROLE” to my lovely, confused friend.  At that precise moment an unfortunate young man walked past and gave us a very strange look.  I do not blame him in the slightest.  Context was particularly important there.

But my point stands: we are not casseroles.  We should not leave ourselves to stew in the pressure cookers of uncertainty, waiting for the vegetables of heartbreak and the dumplings of rejection to descend into our lives.  The happiest people I know are not the ones who never get broken up with, rejected or hurt.  They are the ones who save themselves a lot of time by asking questions, finding out what other people want from them and getting on with life in the aftermath, whatever the outcome is.  I know – BELIEVE me, I know – that asking people questions like “how do you see our relationship?” etc. is a daunting prospect, but if we don’t ask we won’t find out.  If we don’t find out, we are wasting our time.

And who on earth has got time to waste?  Not you, that’s for sure.

Christmas Presence

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Happy Tuesday, you lovely thing!  Boy, am I glad to see you.  Have a seat, I’ve got a rant to get through.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting outside a coffee shop in Camden, waiting for a friend and quietly minding my own business.  As anyone who lives in an urban area will know, sometimes when you’re out and about you have to talk to strangers.  Most people approach you to ask for the time, directions or to hand you a flyer, but the guy I encountered yesterday was a whole new breed of weird stranger (even by Camden’s gloriously bizarre standards).  He approached me to ask for my opinion on his hand-made Christmas cards, which were the most horrific, disturbing and unsettling images I have seen in a very long time.  Genuine excerpt from our conversation:

Stranger: “So, which one do you prefer?  There’s this one, which is the masses of sheep – the consumers, you get me? – bowing down to a tree made of bloodstained iPods, the one of Jesus shooting Ronald McDonald in the face, or the creepy Santa with a bag of kids’ faces.  What do you think?”
Me: “…I think you should talk to someone.”
Stranger: “So you don’t want to buy one?”
Me: “No, thank you.  I really like Christmas.”

And I do, I love Christmas.  I love the carols, parties, decorations, lovely food, sparkling drinks, shiny wrapping paper and rubbish cracker jokes.  (I would love the silly hats too, but they don’t fit over my ridiculous hair.  True story.)  I also love presents, as of course we all do.   I understand that the consumer-driven chaos of Christmas is what the guy in Camden was angry about, and I can respect that.  I also realise that most of the things I’ve just listed as ‘reasons to love Christmas’ are consumerist and non-essential.  I’m not going to apologise for liking things that don’t really matter, because I don’t think that crackers and all that stuff are more important than being with my family, or showing my friends how much I love and appreciate them.

Last year we Brits gobbled approximately 10 million turkeys, spent nearly £600 each on gifts, and probably splashed out thousands of pounds on stamps for our Christmas cards.  This is all in keeping with the Camden guy’s anti-establishment rage, but I don’t believe that the way to fix that is to send grotesque greeting cards.  Don’t get me wrong: I am not disputing this man’s right to express his opinion or use his creativity – fair play to him for coming up with such striking/memorable images – but I personally will not be swayed by his view.  (Although I will concede that this year’s Christmas advert war is starting to grate just a bit.)

Not to get all Tiny Tim about it, but the most important thing about Christmas is the people we spend it with: friends, family and loved ones.  (For instance, the photograph at the top of this post is courtesy of my dad, who captured this lovely moment of typical sibling silliness on Christmas day last year.)  We are allowed to enjoy the consumer stuff like food, drink and presents because they are much less important, but more controllable.  You can hope and pray that your parents won’t get into a row over dinner, or that your granddad won’t get drunk and be loudly racist, or that your sister will cheer up even though she got dumped a week ago, but you cannot make these things happen.  You can make nice food and an effort to find thoughtful gifts.

Even if you don’t have a completely harmonious, sober or exuberant Christmas, the consumer crap is a way of saying to people “I love you, and I want us to have a special day together.”  If we burn the turkey and get terrible presents, it doesn’t matter because it is just stuff and at least we tried.  I know that that’s not why the festive season is so financially spectacular, but if we’ve got this cultural phenomenon we might as well find the positive aspects of it.

Right, rant over.  I’m going to make some mince pies.  You go and have a marvellous day, whatever you’re up to.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Worriers

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Hola and a very merry Friday to you, you lovely thing.  I hope that your week has been productive, enjoyable and unusually amusing.

Today I would like to have a chat about worrying, and specifically worrying about someone you love.  It’s completely acceptable to worry about someone, because it means that you quite like them and want them to be alright.  Similarly, it’s usually quite touching to be told that someone else is worried about you, because it means that they’re thinking about you and wishing you the best.

So worrying comes from a good place, but what is it good for?  (“Absolutely nothin’, say it again y’all!”  Etc.)  Worrying about a loved one doesn’t actually fix their problems, and it’s not going to do you a huge amount of good, either.  Unfortunately, nobody has handed you a magic wand/fairy dust/a time machine with which to fix your loved one’s troubles.  So you feel a bit rubbish and you’re also aware that that feeling isn’t doing any actual good.  This is decidedly not cool.

The way to deal with worry is to act upon it.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that we follow people around saying “are you ok?  Are you sure you’re ok?  What’s the matter?  You look annoyed.  Are you annoyed?  I’M WORRIED ABOUT YOU” ad infinitum.  That is definitely not the answer, for obvious reasons.  However, I think we can agree that we need practical ways to deal with our worry:

1) Say something
Tell the person that you’re worried about them.  Not to make them feel more stressed or guilty for upsetting you, but to reassure them that someone (i.e. you, you super star) is thinking about them.

2) Say something to someone else
If the person you’re worried about has confided in you, obviously don’t go blathering their secrets around your social circle.  But if you have a mutual friend or family member who will understand how you feel (and may already feel the same way), share the load.  For example: I have four siblings, and if I’m worried about one of them I automatically rally the other three.  There’s a lot to be said for strength in numbers.

3) Say something helpful
Offer your support.  Make sure that your friend/loved one knows that you are willing and able to help them if they need you.

4) Really mean it
Only offer support that you know you can give.  You may not be able to fix their entire life, but offering someone a shoulder to cry on or a good distraction from their woes is still very valuable.

5) Really mean it and prepare for it
Stocking up for emotional emergencies is a lot more fun than panic-buying for the end of the world.  For example, I have a secret stash of nice things – chocolate, fancy coffee, etc. – just in case one of my friends comes round and needs cheering up.  On a slightly more serious/less sugar-based note, if someone you care about is going for a scary hospital appointment, for example, clear your schedule for that day as much as possible.  They may claim to be ok, but they might change their mind at the last minute and need you to go with them.

6) Really mean it and prepare for it and then do it
If there is anything that you can actually physically do to help, do it.  If you’ve offered help to someone and they’ve taken you up on it, that demonstrates a huge amount of trust on their part.  Respect their trust and don’t push them to do/say things they’re not ready for.  Worrying is hard, but being worried about is also a big deal.

7) Let them get on with it
If you’ve said all you can say and done all that you can do, your only course of action is to sit back and let them work through whatever’s happening.  You can’t force someone to confide in you, call you when they’re sad or turn to you when they’re scared – some people prefer to do these things alone, and we have to respect that.  But if you’ve made it clear where you stand (i.e. right beside them whenever they need you), then you have already acted upon your worry as much as you can.

One last thing: I completely understand that being told not to worry is a bit annoying, because we don’t have much of a choice in the matter.  But just as your words and actions come from a well-meaning place, so do the intentions of the person who says “don’t worry about it”.  They just don’t like to see you wandering around looking as stressed out as the goldfish at the top of this post.  Poor, worried goldfish.

Have a glorious weekend.

Mind-Altering Circumstances

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Hello, reader!  How are you?  Take a seat.  Don’t mind the mess, I’m still unpacking.  Would you like a coffee?

I recently discovered that many forms of urban wildlife like to visit my garden, and in my naive, not-a-real-Londoner state I was delighted.  “I’m living in The Animals of Farthing Wood!” I thought.  (Except that time I saw a squirrel eating a potato waffle – pictured above – which was just baffling.)

Well, waking up this morning to discover that said wildlife had seen fit to POO on the patio made me rethink my position.  I have spent the last hour Googling how to deter foxes, with mixed success.  According to this nice pest control man, “young male urine” will do the trick.  Excuse me, but a) gross and b) I live with my sister.  How on EARTH are we supposed to ask our next young male visitor to oblige us with that particular type of pesticide?  It’s just not happening.

Anyway, vulpine poo problems aside, this last week or so has demonstrated to me that changing your mind is an inevitable part of life.  It doesn’t even take an unwelcome surprise (as it were) to create the change: as we experience life, we discover that our feelings about the world change accordingly.  This is a good thing, because it shows that we are not closed-minded people, but it’s also a bit disorientating, because our opinions form an integral part of who we are.  Here are some of the things I think we worry about too much in terms of where we stand:

The Career Conundrum
I won’t lie to you: pursuing a writing career is hands down the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and this is coming from someone who’s been to Hackney at night time.  Sometimes our choice of job or pursuit of passion leaves us feeling a bit lost, and we start to wonder whether we’ve made the right decisions.  This week I genuinely started to panic about the writing thing, and even though it’s sort-of on the wane now, it was weird how unappealing my lifelong passion started to look.
I really don’t believe that it is ever too late to change your mind about what you want to do.  I have a friend who is doing a degree course at the age of 26 (and getting insanely high marks as well, the jammy madam).  A lot of people I know – especially those lovely creative types – are constantly turning their hands to all sorts of endeavours, and it makes them much more rounded and fascinating people.  Society tells us that we must introduce ourselves with our job titles, as though our careers defined us.  They don’t, even though they do take up a lot of our time.  It’s not worth wasting time worrying about what your job title sounds like when the main thing is to be happy.  If you change your mind about what you want to do, that’s your business.  As far as I’m concerned, you should be allowed to introduce yourself as Grand High Master of the Universe for all that your job title actually matters.

The Marriage and Kids Debate
“I definitely want to get married one day.”  “I want lots of kids, but not marriage.”  “I would never have a church wedding.”  We’ve all had these conversations, haven’t we?  Especially once you hit my age, lots of people start to seriously consider what the long-term landscape of their personal lives is going to be.  At this point, particularly if you have a serious boy/girlfriend, it becomes very important to be completely honest with yourself about what you really want.  You may have spent your entire life saying that you categorically MUST be married by a certain age or have a minimum number of children, but of all things your vision of familial happiness has to be allowed to change.  It’s nice to have a hypothetical idea of what you want, but you have to be able to adapt to what your heart tells you as you get older.  At sixteen you may have been adamant that marriage was not for you, but if you meet the man/woman of your dreams at twenty-six and you change your mind, don’t fight it.  Your past self had no idea what life had in store for you, so why does s/he get to dictate your decisions now?

The Really Big Issues
It is a truly excellent thing to have an informed opinion about Syria, Scottish independence, euthanasia and how we can persuade David Cameron’s home planet to take him back.  The key word in that sentence is “informed” – new information and updates about all of these issues appear on a daily basis, and if situations change we are supposed to readjust our views accordingly.  It takes a much more intelligent and honest person to change their mind about huge political problems than it does to stick to narrow-minded guns.  Consistency is all very well and good, but have you noticed that the news is not consistent?  It changes every day, in fact.  We need to keep up, otherwise we’ll end up like those eejits who think that gay marriage causes hurricanes or whatever.

The main thing to remember is that changing our minds once doesn’t mean we’ll never change them back, or that we won’t form a new opinion entirely.  My writing worries will go, I’m sure, as soon I get stuck into my next play.  If they don’t, I could always retrain as an accountant or something.

Ok, that will NEVER happen.  But the point is that we can and should keep our options (and minds) open.

Have a stupendously enjoyable Thursday.

Stop Talking to Yourself

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Happy Monday, reader!  How was your weekend?  

Everyone talks to themselves from time to time, and that’s totally fine.  It becomes slightly less socially acceptable when there are other people in the room, and it’s definitely frowned upon at formal occasions – funerals in particular are a no go.  In general, talking to yourself is not a problem, as long as you’re being nice to yourself.  It might sound a bit strange, but a lot of us use talking to ourselves as an opportunity to be defeatist or cowardly.  Here are five things that we really need to stop saying to and about ourselves:

  • “I’m such an idiot”
    No, you’re not.  Everyone has stupid moments from time to time.  That doesn’t make you an idiot.  Even if you were a idiot, do you really believe that telling yourself so is going to make you any smarter?  If you really think that you could stand to be more intellectual then read more books and listen to Radio 4.  Also, having an emotional response to something is not stupidity.  Trusting someone who ends up hurting/deceiving you or getting carried away by a crush is not an indication of cognitive impairment.  If someone else has made a mockery of your trust/feelings/Oyster card then they’re the idiot, not you.  
  • “S/he would never like me”
    Two words: watch Hairspray.  We have no idea how the human heart works, what makes people fancy each other or why couples stay together forever.  Oh, sure, there’s all the science about genetic compatibility and how we’re subconsciously attracted to the best candidates to continue the species with.  But if you convince yourself that you’re not worthy of someone’s affections then you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you don’t believe that you’re worthwhile then how is anyone else supposed to?
  • “I’ll never get that job”
    Again, you never know.  It’s always worth applying for stuff that you’re a bit under-qualified for, because some employers see potential and like to help you realise it.  Also, it doesn’t matter how amazing the job is: if an employer rejects your application then either you weren’t right for the job, or the company wasn’t right for you.  Why would you want to work for a company foolish enough to reject you?  Why would you want to do a job that you weren’t right for?  Exactly.  Stop worrying about it.
  • “My mean parent/teacher/friend was right about me”
    No they flipping were not.  I know it’s much, much easier said than done, but you absolutely have to let go of nasty stuff that people have said about you.  This is for two reasons: firstly, those words were probably said out of anger, bitterness or malice, and therefore have less to do with you than the unhappiness of the person who said them.  Secondly, letting nasty comments take hold of your self-worth means that nobody wins.  
  • “I could never do that”
    Do what?  Travel the world?  Go skydiving?  Become famous?  Get out of your overdraft?  You are capable of anything you can think of, and I don’t just mean that in a cheesy, “live your dream” kind of way (although that is part of it).  Anything that you want to do with your life can definitely be done, and you know that to be true because someone else has done it before you.  Loads of people, in fact.  If they can do it – whether “it” is learn to tap dance or go into space – you can do it.  

Have a highly amusing Monday, and I will see you tomorrow.

10 Things “Tangled” Got Right

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Happy Friday, dear reader!  I hope this week has been kind to you.

Lots of us have a very strong emotional attachment to Disney films, and why not?  They tell magical stories using bright colours, silly voices and usually lots of marvellous songs.  What’s not to love?  Well, until very recently Disney seemed blissfully unaware of things like ethnic diversity, liberalism and…gosh, what was the other one?  Oh yeah.  Feminism.

Having said that, when they finally got round to it they did a great job, and Frozen is widely regarded as a triumph because it has two female protagonists AND was directed by a woman.  Nice work, Disney.  Have a biscuit.  

Having re-watched it recently, I think that Tangled actually deserves similar praise.  It might not have been as ground-breaking in terms of narrative format as Frozen, and it doesn’t have a talking snowman.  However, given that it was the retelling of a pretty grim (geddit?) fairytale about a woman being stuck in a tower, it did a pretty good job of giving little girls and boys some excellent ideas about self-belief and how love is supposed to work.  Here are some excellent lessons that Tangled teaches us:

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1) It’s always worth facing your fears, no matter how scared you are.  The alternative is being stuck forever in your isolated tower/comfort zone, where you are safe BUT nothing exciting happens.

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2) Go on an adventure for your own reasons.  Pursue things that you want.  Go and find out everything you can about stuff that fascinates you.  If you’re lucky and it’s right, a love interest will appear to accompany you, BUT they are incidental.  Your adventure is about you, not them.

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3) You can’t judge a book by its cover.  A simple lesson, but one worth reiterating.  Would you have expected this guy to be into baking?  Me neither.  But he is.

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4) True friends can communicate with just a look.  Pascal the chameleon doesn’t say a single word throughout the film, but you always know exactly what his opinion is.  It’s definitely worth paying attention to the things your friends don’t say, as well as the things they do.

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5) Don’t worry about your looks, because they seriously do not matter.  If you do worry about them too much, you can end up in a very bad place.  The villain of Tangled is consumed by her own vanity to the point where she kidnaps a royal baby.  That’s just not cool.  ALSO, (spoiler alert – although if you haven’t seen the film, I’m not sure why you’d have read this far) when Flynn/Eugene cuts off Rapunzel’s hair at the end, her looks change dramatically.  Does anybody care, or even mention the fact that her most defining physical feature is no more?  Nope.  Because it doesn’t matter.

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6) It’s always, always better to be yourself.  Even if your name is Eugene Fitzherbert.

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7) Girls – you can be the hero.  Boys – it’s ok to need rescuing.  Looking after the people you love is not a gender-specific thing.  We might not have magical hair, but we all have our own resources and traits that our loved ones rely upon.

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8) Always trust your own instincts over what your critics say.  Someone who goes to the effort of putting you down on a regular basis is clearly trying to suppress all the awesomeness you are capable of.

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9) The right person for you is the one who goes the extra mile to make you happy.  People have chequered pasts and we’ve all done things that we’re not proud of, but when people truly care about you their actions will be louder than their CVs.

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10) HAVE A DREAM.

Also, have a cracking weekend.

Villains and Heroes

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Good morning, you marvellous creature.  How’s your Friday going?  

Our society is obsessed with the concepts of heroism and villainy.  Specifically in terms of celebrity culture, we like to be told who to admire and who to abhor.  I have a massive problem with celebrity culture in general, because I think that it’s pointless at best and incredibly offensive at worst to speculate on the lives of people we’ll never know.  It makes far more sense to look closer to home to find things that we can aspire to or avoid, and to surround ourselves with people who make our heroes list.  Here are a few examples of the goodies and baddies we are most likely to come across in life:

Villains

  • The git who doesn’t give up their seat for a pregnant woman on public transport.  How is that even a thing that happens?  It’s ludicrous.
  • The person who doesn’t care who they hurt.  I’ve known a guy to cheat on one of my closest friends with one of my other closest friends, and the audacity of that still makes me livid, even years later.  Seriously, don’t poo where you eat.  Or where you socialise, I guess.  In fact, pooing anywhere other than the traditionally designated facilities is just not cool.
  • The person who never says please or thank you.  That drives me up the flipping wall.  Someone bring me a stepladder, please; my rage is preventing me from getting back down to the floor.
  • The person who just doesn’t give a flying fig about you.  Why do we put up with people who never listen to what we say, ask us questions about ourselves or show any concern for our welfare?  This covers a whole spectrum of asshats from story-toppers to emotionally abusive partners.  People who only want you around as an audience do not deserve you.  You are not just a spectator.
  • The moron who likes to shit-stir.  Why would anyone get a kick out of inventing harmful computer viruses, upsetting their friends or creating vicious rumours?  I don’t understand.  Incidental Schadenfreude is one thing, but intentionally creating distress for absolutely no reason is just evil.  Villainous, you might say.

Heroes

  • Single parents.  Those guys are hands down the bravest, most hard-working and incredible people we will ever meet.  Whenever I get depressed about my responsibilities and worries I think about how much my single parent friends have to deal with, and feel a bit ashamed of myself.
  • People who fight their fears.  Like lots of people, my way of dealing with stuff that I’m afraid of is to simply run away from it and refuse to fix the issue.  When I climbed Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh I went with a friend who, as far as I knew, simply loved climbing and always had.  However, I found out that he only took up climbing to confront his fear of heights, which is pretty incredible to me.  People who can challenge themselves like that are definitely to be respected.
  • People who always care.  One of my friends is the loveliest, gentlest and most compassionate person I know.  She also has absolutely no luck when it comes to health and family problems, but that never stops her from caring about what’s going on with me.  Isn’t it amazing to have someone in your life who doesn’t let their problems prevent them from loving you?
  • People who pursue their passion.  A lot of my friends are creative types, and I am bowled over every day by how hard they work and how much they sacrifice in order to achieve their dreams.
  • People who can get over a heartbreak.  If you’ve ever had your heart broken and have recovered from it, you are an undisputed hero.  Go get yourself a cape.

Have a brilliant weekend.