Advice, Happiness

The Ex-Girlfriend Club

When I was 16 I met a boy called Will*. Will was my first everything: first boyfriend, first “I love you”, first other-person-orgasm, first p in my v.

But I wasn’t Will’s first any of those. That title in his life belonged to a girl called Chelsea, subsequently becoming another first for me: the first ex girlfriend.

These were simpler times. Pre Instagram and pre Facebook boom, it took a mutual acquaintance causally mentioning Chelsea for me to find out about her, around four months into our then very teenage relationship.

Of course, I’d recently been experiencing multiple overwhelming emotions for the very first time, such as attachment, sexual connection, vaginal stimulation and the gag reflex. None of these shocked me (the gag reflex comes in at a close second) or hit me quite so hard as the pure stomach turning gut wrenching jealously I felt upon learning of what I envisioned of Will’s “First Love”. Suddenly, our relationship felt tainted, which sounds very Victorian I know, and is strange because it’s not like I ever thought he was a virgin. Funnily enough, the fact that he wasn’t a virgin when he met me made me fancy him even more and installed a confidence that he’d take the wheel on my loss of virginity experience. But now, after discovering the details, I wished that I’d been his first. The awful, juvenile terms “sloppy seconds” and “upgrade/downgrade” was rife in our small town Essex gossip culture. I wasn’t anyone’s seconds. He was. I didn’t feel special anymore.

And to make it worse, she was hot. I tried to find faults in her to comfort my ignorant pubescent woman brain, but failed. She was tall and blonde, with a sexiness about her. I instantly compared this to myself, the unsexed round faced brunette tomboy in thick rimmed glasses, and for the first time ever, contemplated my own attractiveness. My awkward stage went on for longer than most (can we just forget pre-2011 didn’t happen?) whereas it seemed as if she’d never even endured one. As the law of attraction would have it, now knowing her face and name, I started seeing her everywhere on our college campus, but refused to acknowledge her existence, even to my friends. I didn’t need their opinions or even the truth, and I wasn’t insecure enough to put her down in order to pull myself up. She never caused trouble in any way. She was just living her life. But to me, she was the bitch that my boyfriend loved before me.

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(I literally ignored her existence at this party and we still managed to – kind of – be in the same photo.)

We’re raised well prepared for relationships and “love”, but no one ever warned me of the ex girlfriend game. Once over the age of 18, chances are your significant other has known genitalia other than your own. It seems like a simple fact of life, but one we are never emotionally prepped for or allowed to be honest about. No girl wants to be the “psycho” or to ruin her new relationship ‘cool girl’ myth. But if you tell me that you don’t know your S.O’s ex’s name, guess what – I don’t believe you.

Because, for every man I’ve been romantically or sexually involved in, I’ve known at least one ex by name or face, whether I’ve searched them out, stumbled across them or simply heard stories straight from the man’s mouth. Unless you’ve known them personally, they become a ghost like presence in the back of your sub conscious, even if it is a tiny little thought in a darker moment of the day, existing in a universe parallel to your own – still kissing and loving the man that is now yours. Their names become harder to pronounce, as if even the phonetic produces a venom, paralysing your lips. And even if their name is rarely mentioned, no matter what age, to some degree your person shared experiences and parts of their life with this other person. So in getting to know your person to the best of human ability, they’re going to remain in there somewhere, however much hidden.

To date, Chelsea is the only ex I’ve had no choice but to share an intimate space with, i.e a campus, a corridor or a mutual friends party. I’ve seen others in social situations that have been easy to escape from. I even worked with one, but didn’t have to be in close proximity with her. Chelsea is the only ex who’s persona was crafted in real life. All of the others have been created in a cosmic space between my brain and the internet.

For all the advantages that technology has granted us, among it’s negatives are the utensils to feed our curiosity in this particular subject. A simple Google search could show you half a dozen different medias that she has used over the years. I once found myself three years deep into an ex’s blog, flooded with photos of her and the guy on amazing holidays, making that past parallel universe far too present. And as the years have gone on it’s become as easy as a swipe of the index finger to fall head first down the rabbit hole and suddenly find your self finger slipping on a photo she posted 120 weeks ago. Social media gives us the tools to construct these once mysterious figures from the past. A 140 character tweet somehow acts as an autobiographical look into their soul, as does an over used Emoji or a one sentence self-bio.

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^THE WORST. 

You may believe that my behaviour and outlook is “psycho”. I’m ok with that, because I could name you twenty girls that have admitted to the same behaviours, and if we’re all psychos, then I guess we’re psychos. My own mother, at 53, tries to hide the flames in her eyes whenever her partners ex wife is mentioned, but fails. Thank God she doesn’t know how to use Facebook. It’s an organic emotion and action given our lives and culture mixed with our female animalistic instincts. It’s completely out of my usual nature and conscious control: I try my best to love or at least appreciate and support all women. But mixed with this possessive, jealous, stereotypically Leo outlook of needing to be the very best and perhaps a deep down insecurity within relationships, I’ve projected my inward thoughts onto their uniquely-crafted-by-me personas, and created monsters, of which are (probably) very far from their true selves. Take it through extensive experience, stalking is a game you enter with absolutely zero chances of winning, as is comparing yourself or your present relationship to any other human or past relationship. You will never come out of a stalk feeling better about yourself, as much as you like to believe the unflattering drunk photo of her does. Even this paragraph made me hate myself… But truthfully it’s never ever good to feel like that. It’s all about understanding our own brains and situations and having clarity, and not feeling guilt over emotions we don’t understand.

It’s taken me years to establish clarity on why we seek out the ex. I think it begins rather innocently as purely fierce curiosity – trying to work out if he has a type and if you fit it, or measure up to her level, even though a true ‘level’ will never exist. Plus, curiosity over our own metaperception: if I see her a certain way, does he see that in me? Is that how I appear to others? If she is forced into your personal business by way of contact – I’ve had a few weird messages from some scorned ex’s and one that has called the guy while I was sitting next to him to tell him she missed him – it becomes even harder not to investigate a potential ‘threat’. For me personally, this curiosity has at times murdered, butchered and dismembered the cat, and developed into a weird sort of morbid fascination. I’ve paralleled our lives so freely that it’s almost scary – 141 weeks ago when exhibit A. was in New York being a successful supermodel, I was crying after my first fashion week in London. 214 weeks ago when exhibit B. was loved up with my current love… Oh… I was loved up with my ex love… Awkward.

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The worst type of photo to see whilst stalking his ex / anyone could ever post. 

Which leads perfectly to another interesting comparison: unless you males have a secret community with a strict confidentiality agreement, you seem to react to our ex’s in the complete opposite way – remaining so confident in your patriarchal position that you just lack that need to compare, analyse and care whatsoever. When asked if he cared about in any way or had stalked any of his gf’s ex’s, one male friend laughed, and could only muster, “Why would I?”. Following continued probing, he later added, “I guess if she’s with me now, there’s just no need or want to go looking into her past. The past is the past. You girls seem to love the past”.

I can’t help but agree with that generalisation. But in these irrational, jealous moments, we also seem to magically forget that we have our own pasts, once too featuring other people: perhaps even more in love and having even better sex. There have been a few ex girlfriend’s that I have seen as SO beautiful, in a emotionally distressful time when I couldn’t feel worse about myself, convincing myself that I was the ugly one after a string of Candice Swanepoel’s. It didn’t help that a friend of the boyfriend, every time she drank, told me she loved me and that I was so much better than his most recent ex. “You’re great. I mean, she was BEAUTIFUL, but so cardboard. You are so clever and funny!” The first time she said it, I took it as a compliment. By the third time that she’d repeated the exact same sentence, all I managed to hear was, “SHE was BEAUTIFUL” – i.e, you’re not. I felt too embarrassed to tell my boyfriend at that time, so confided in another male, who cuttingly told me, “Even if she is way hotter, why do you care? You’ve had way hotter men than *****, but you still prefer him. It’s obviously the same with him otherwise he’d still be with her and wouldn’t want to be with you.”

Here’s an exercise for you: Close your eyes and picture your “best looking” boyfriend/sexual partner. I don’t mean your most attractive over all to you or the one you fancy or love the most. I mean the usual consensus of what’s physically “good looking” to the general public.

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If it’s your current, lucky you, I guess he’s perfect. But chances are he’s the guy from your past that had good looks and not a lot else. Now compare them to your current, in the same way you’ve compared yourself to his ex’s. In my case, exhibit Lol’sFromMyPast was a 6’4 male model gym buff who turned my flatmate’s gooey eyed and wet knickered. He was also dumb and dull as fuck and gave me nothing but something nice to look at, the novelty of which wore off after three weeks, which was still far too long. Exhibt SexiestManInMyEyes was an intelligent, endlessly interesting and charismatic, 5’9, un photogenic, wonky nosed tech geek, who gave me more orgasms than my right hand. The result? What does “looks” matter? Looks are nothing to do with love or even attractiveness and are always completely in the eye of the beholder anyway. Ask me which man I’d pick given the chance out of the two – I’d pick the latter in a fraction of a heartbeat every single time, with absolutely no thought needed.

We see every little thing that could be wrong with us, when others just see you in all your perfectly imperfect glory. I think women think that men think about “looks” ten times more than they actually do. If my current boyfriend told me he’d been humped over on the sofa stalking my ex on his phone for an hour, accidentally liking a year old picture in the process, I’d be dumbfounded. I’d demand to know what had lead him to such a time wasting activity. The ex couldn’t be further from my mind, living in another parallel universe filled with people who’s body parts once touched your mouth but who’s presence you now could not care less about.

Coincidentally, there’s other people I could not care less about, who’s bodies haven’t been near my mouth or any other orifice: my ex boyfriends’ current girlfriends’.

While conducting an albeit light study on other girls’ feeling towards ‘the ex’, another target came to light organically: 8 out of 10 girls I asked were very interested in their current’s ex, but 7 of those added that they also looked for and resented their ex’s current. This is really interesting to me, as it is honestly something that I am not effected by. Luckily, by the time they’ve moved on, I’ve moved on. I’ve been forced to acknowledge their existence, online and in person, but have never ever ever felt that little jealousy twinge I’ve had for ex’s. When I see the currents, I can appreciate their looks or overall character without compromising my own, sometimes even KNOWING that they are way prettier than me, and – I promise you – not caring one little bit. I don’t know exactly what the difference is, or how I can hold such opposing views on the two, or why some girls feel the opposite way. Perhaps that’s a-whole-nuva article.

Lastly, another super important thing to realise in order to come to terms with their ex is the strong likeliness that you are or one day will be the ex girlfriend to someone’s boyfriend. Imagine a girl you’ve never had anything to do with, examining your thoughtless Instagram posts, thinking you’re dumb and wondering if he found you prettier. Freaky Matrix style shit, huh? Ever had a boyfriend talk shit about his ex? He’ll probably be talking shit about you to his new girlfriend in a year from now.

After the first year of my relationship, I never saw Chelsea again, but if I saw her name on a friend’s Facebook, did I have a little look? Of course. Although, as time went on it became way less frequent, until after three years Will and I broke up for good. As my experience in men grew, so did my experience in mythic “ex girlfriend’s”. In turn, the longer I was with the man, the less I cared about the ex’s. I’ve come to realise, that you really only fully get over the girl when you get over the guy. With no judgement, I can’t help but wonder if the girls that have an issue with their ex’s current, perhaps aren’t over either of them.

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Earlier this year, I received a random LinkedIn invitation from none other than Chelsea. A name that once bubbled my blood now just rung prettily in my ears, and was one I realised had been buried deep in the past. The memories of my past feeling towards her shocked me, and suddenly everything clicked. I found clarity.

I accepted, saw a link to her blog and spent the next hour reading. She seemed cool and clever and exactly my type of girl. I somehow felt I owed it to my 16 year old self, to add her on Facebook and tell her I loved her writing – call it writer karma if you will. A week later we met for the first time. I was excited to finally speak to her and debunk the myths in my head. But like a first date, I was nervous we wouldn’t get on and I’d have to devise an escape route through a public toilet window.

Happy ending alert: we did get on, shared a few bottles of wine and laughed hours away without any weird “what-shall-I-say-now?” moments. In fact, I think I get on with her easier than I ever got on with Will. If you’d have shown a 16 year old me this scene from her future, she never would have believed you.

It’s so weird to think that, the way I feel about Will and whoever his current girlfriend may be now, is the same way Chelsea felt about Will and I way back then. She was over him, not caring who I was. I was in love with him, caring way too much about her. And now seven years later, we were in a bar in Notting Hill together, getting on so well that the topic of our once shared ‘love’ was the dullest and briefest thread of the evening’s conversation.

A POEM:

So remember, ex girlfriends are humans too
living their own unique lives as are you
If you’re cool and he finds you’re cool
chances are she’s cool
and you’d find her cool too.

Give it a few years – who knows – you could be friends.

ALL PHOTOS AND IMAGES FEATURED ARE COURTESY OF GOOGLE IMAGES & FACEBOOK.

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Happiness

KIM K AND THE FEMINIST CONTRADICTION

Among other socially important news stories this week – Kim Kardashian posted a selfie.

But alas, not the conventional, head and shoulders, face-drowned-in-make up-with-immacuate-shiny-hair kind. The naked in front of a bathroom mirror kind.

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In months, a week or even days, the media excitement and fan frenzy will die down until it’s tossed on the pile of previous mildly shocking celebrity activity, along with her full frontal Paper Magazine photo shoot and her sex tape.

But for now at least, general opinion seems to be divided into two categories: the, “Wow, she’s so hot and confident, good for her!” side, and the “Wow, what an attention seeking little whore” side.

I personally have very mixed opinions on the subject.

Love them or loathe them, we cannot escape the fact that over the last eight or so years, the Kardashian klan have taken over the celebrity ‘tabloid’ world once dominated by Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. I’ve read arguments that the sudden growth in reality TV and social media was the end of the tabloid, murdering the middle man by letting the viewers and the followers hear it and see it from the horses mouth, making the once untouchable, fantasy like public figures infinitely accessible. E!’s Keeping Up With The Kardashians is arguably the biggest reality show ever made, making a whole family of privileged, non-talented, not extremely interesting individuals the most popular celebrities of this decade. In 2003, Kim Kardashian was a young woman giving Ray-J a blow job and receiving (what looked like the most dull and unsatisfying) cunnilingus (I have ever seen). Eleven years later, she was on the cover of American Vogue. She went from sex-tape-with-a-B-list-Rapper-trash to modern American ‘Royalty’. (Sorry, Will and Kate)

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The fact is, the reason that Kim Kardashian and her family are so famous is prominently due to her appearance in the sex tape. It’s apparently what garnered interest in momager Kris Jenner’s show pitch. So firstly, why people are so shocked that Kim posted a naked selfie I have no idea. Plus, her titties and nooni are ‘modestly’ covered with post-edit black strips – I mean, I’ve already seen her bare vagina in LOVE and Paper magazine and have seen her bare arse one million more times than I will ever see my own. It’s hardly new imagery, is it?

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The word ‘feminism’ means different things to different people.

Some purely believe that feminism means ‘the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes’ – the Oxford definition of the term.

Some believe it is the females power to do whatever the hell she wants to do with herself or her own body as long as she’s not hurting anyone else. Some believe feminism means that women shouldn’t be the sexual objects that over centuries they’ve been glorified to be.

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So in the same breath, Kim could be seen as the anti feminist and the heroine of feminism, depending on your individual view. Whether she was in control of the sex tape release or not, on some level subconsciously, Kim lost ownership of her body. Anyone with access to the internet could and still can view her body in the act of sex/making-love/fucking, an act which is mostly conducted in private with hopefully loving and comfortable connotations. If it’s true that the tape was released completely against her will, then in some sense Kim was deemed control less and ultimately sexualised in the most horrendous way. Her private life was and is everyone’s property. For Kim or her handlers to turn that awful violation into millions of dollars, a brand and a career is arguably the greatest feminist victory. You can’t argue that Kim’s hustle is second to none. Along with the heavily constructed reality show, social media means that her and her family can be in complete control of what we all see. This selfie is a perfect example of that sentiment; her body is beautiful (as is her bathroom), she took the photo and she released it. Like her body, it is completely hers. Just because we as the public can view it, doesn’t change that. Plus, why does her naked body have to mean that it’s sexual? She isn’t posed in an overtly provocative way. The caption, “When you’re like I have nothing to wear LOL” is directed more to women than it is to men. I mean, it’s just a body. A body that has produced two babies. We all have the same reflection just before we step into the shower, whatever shape or size we are or how styled our hair or faces. If Kim is a whore, does that make Venus de Milo one too? (OMG Venus is such a slut, standing there parading her tits and almost showing her vag! Does she have no shame?)

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Call this comparison crazy, but man (humans) ‘created’ Kim Kardashian in the same way he (they) sculpted Venus.

“You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting “Vanity,” thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for you own pleasure.”

― John Berger, Ways of Seeing

And yes, feminism is equality between the sexes. So why is it that men can post nude photos, get their dicks out at every opportunity, moon like ten year olds and walk around with their BARE NIPPLES on show in the summer without a bat of an eyelid?

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But on the other hand, I have to admit: there is still a part of me that finds it a little bit… well… sad. I’m currently searching deep within myself to confirm why I feel that while fully standing for the paragraph above. All I can gather is that I find it sad that we, as a Western society, obsessed with appearance, bourgeoisie and celebrity, created the Kardashian-kraze in the first place. The whole image of the family and their whole lifestyle is an astronomical glorification of fame and money as overarching life goals. I find it sad that we have placed someone with no significant spirit, courage, talent, and magnanimity, bravery, intelligence, or perseverance, so high on a pedestal that young girls could look up to her. Kim and her sisters are only really famous for their bodies and the men that they marry, subsequently suggesting that they only know their worth through their appearance, patriarchal acceptance and the male gaze. I don’t know that many pre teen girls to ask, but from what I gather, quite a few of them look up to the Kardashians. Instagram is to them what radio and television was to me growing up – powerfully manipulative contributors to adult psyche. If posting a photo if your naked body is celebrated and then normalised, I have no doubt that young girls will start posting similar things themselves. Kim’s selfie could give a much darker message – your appearance/sexuality is your worth. You are a sexual object.

It’s sad because women shouldn’t have to show off their bodies to be looked up to, or to emphasis their talent, confidence or power. No matter how talented she is, the focus is always predominantly  on the female celebrities sexuality.

Of course, negative responses from other celebrities were rife. Kim began tweeting those that had openly criticised her. Among those were Bette Midler (someone who is incredibly successful without ever using her sexuality) with a relatively witty response, and teenage actress Chloe Moretz, who is yet to succumb. Kim went on to age-shame (have I just created a new discrimination?) Bette and “attempted” to slut-shame Chloe over a Nylon cover featuring Chloe and her bare leg. In all honesty, I would have stuck with my initial argument and maybe even respected Kim a little bit if she hadn’t retaliated and had instead marvelled in her own confidence with an unfuckwitable silence. But, who am I to pass comment or to even have an opinion… It’s her life.

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Klassy.

Mainly, it’s sad that we care so much about any of this. Perhaps if the sexes were equal (trust me, we are far from it), there wasn’t such intense emphasis on female sexuality, women were not so cautious, conscious or considerate of their appearance and more confident and content within themselves, all we would see when we refreshed our Instagram feeds (maybe there wouldn’t even be a need for Instagram) was a grown woman standing in her bathroom.

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Advice, Happiness, Health, Interview

“There will always be more parties” – Things I Wish I’d Heard at 23

Birthday’s are funny things, aren’t they? Fundamentally, they serve solely as an excuse to dedicate a whole day to the celebration of you and your life, in which you are rewarded with praise, parties and presents, purely for having won the sperm race and surviving however many years of earth you personally have thus far.

I recently turned 23. 23 is a pretty forgettable landmark – it presents no new allowances like 18 or 21, and no philosophical rush of importance like 25 or 30. Even 22 had a Taylor Swift song. 23 is just a red flag reminding you that you are two years away from 25, and seven short years away from 30. Pause Taylor Swift for a second and you’ll hear a faint, monotonous ticking noise…

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I feel that now more than ever, twenty somethings are feeling an immense pressure to succeed. We are a generation of perfectionists, influenced by the media and countless sources of overflowing information. Technology is developing at the speed of light, and we are expected to hold on tight or get left behind. The Earth, once gigantic, has been made smaller but technology, so that we are all just tiny fishes drowning in one big bottomless pond.

I recently discussed a personal anxiety with my friend Steve, who at 28 isn’t much older than me at all. He told me that when he was my age, he didn’t appreciate being responsibility free and wish he’d used that to his advantage. It made me realise that nostalgia and first hand knowledge allows us to look back on our younger selves and see that we were unnecessarily anxious, because nothing is as bad as it may have seemed once it is in the past. Advice can help us to view things in a different perspective. Listening to others’ regrets could stir something within us early and help to avoid our own future regrets.

So I asked 23 friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances over the age of 30 what advice they would give if they could have a conversation with their 23 year old self:

Fraser, 52, Insurance broker, Essex.

“If you’re not happy in something, whether it’s a relationship or a job – QUIT. It is never too late to change your life, you are never stuck in anything.”

Helen, 52, Hospice nurse, Wiltshire. 

“Follow your heart. If it feels right then do it! If someone else’s advice isn’t quite ‘you’ then go with your gut feeling. I married at 19 after lots of,

Are you sure you’re not too young?/Will this relationship last?”  

I am so glad that I followed my heart… As it was right! We have been happily married for 32 years.”

Vicki Psarias, Film maker http://www.vpsarias.co.uk  and blogger (http://www.honestmum.com) (http://www.mummysgotstyle.com)

“Keep truckin’, follow your dreams (as you will) but be open, always. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself. I had directed my first short film at the time, had just got a distinction in my MA in Screen Direction, but I was too hard on myself, my own worst critic and I would say in retrospect, ‘girl, cut yourself some slack, you’ll find the right job for you, eventually (when technology catches up) that allows you to be whomever you want to be, and it will happen after kids, a time when many will tell you your creative career will die. Well it thrived’.

Remember, things will work out. Hone your talent, be tenacious but also kind and life will work out the way it should.”

Joe, 32, Musician, South East London

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, but don’t expect happiness to be a default setting.”

Ste, 40, Builder, Essex. 

“ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, wear a condom.”

Rory Gullan, 30, Fashion photographer, London.

“At an extremely stressful time of my life, my mum asked me, ”What’s the worst that could happen?” I told her, “Well, this”, to which she repeated, ”What’s the worst that could happen?” So I told her – “I could fail.” And she simply said, “Exactly.”

Since then I’ve used this in everything I do, and everything just seems that much more straightforward. Failing is one less thing to worry about because it’ll teach you a lot more than always succeeding.”

Julie, 49, Yoga instructor, Essex.

“Believe in yourself and all that you do. Don’t worry about what other people think, just know that you are attractive to others.”

Joe Mehmet, Salon owner and top hairdresser. 

“Invest in your future rather than live for now. As time catches up with you and then you realise that you haven’t got enough for the rest of your old life; In your twenties it’s all about fun fun fun but when you hit the fifties you need security as pensions won’t be enough – nor will the state look after you.”

Jake Mavity, 35, Director and producer, London. 

“Slow down. I thought there was a mad rush to achieve stuff when actually life is bloody long and you don’t have to have it completely nailed by 30. And relax. Twenties are rubbish compared to how fucking awesome your thirties are. The fun of the twenties with no insecurities and more cash. Bliss.”

Bobby, 33, Music journalist, Essex. 

“Nothing is ever as bad as we imagine it to be, and that feeling anxious is natural. It is perfectly normally to feel scared, but to let that fear prevent you from doing what is good for you is the most frightening scenario of all.”

Tav, 36, Club manager, London. 

“Don’t expect anyone to provide for you; the sweetest money you’ll ever make will be the money you make for yourself.”

Michelle, 53, Actress, London.

“The minute you have a back up plan you are admitting defeat. Don’t look for love, it will always find you.”

Bobby, 69, Club owner, London 

“If you look around a table and can’t pick out ‘the mug’, you’re it.”

Ian, 32, DJ and photographer, London.

“There will always be more parties.”

Sid, 70, Antique dealer, London.

“Just live life as it comes. Always be polite, manners cost nothing.”

Jo, 42, Makeup artist, London.

“You are beautiful. Just be confident, listen to your inner voice and do what makes YOU happy.”

Mike, 47, Managing Director, London. 

“Think twice before you cross someone because it will always come back to you. Honesty is the key to life.”

Jens, 70, Property developer, Surrey.  

“Don’t rush into things. Take your time and think through your options. You are only 23 and still have 50-60 years of living in front of you.”

Siobhan, 47, Deputy head teacher, Berkshire. 

“Don’t get to your 40’s and say. “I should have done that.” Life presents people with opportunities all the time. Some people take them and some people don’t. Don’t miss out!”

Richard, 35, Film editor, London.

“Don’t panic. Smile. Laugh. Have lots and lots of sex.”

Vero, 43, Saleswoman, Dorking.

“Don’t smoke. Get your cervical smear test. A friend of mine had to have her entire cervix removed in her late twenties because they found cancer.”

Julia, 58, Artist, Surrey.

“Self development, self development, self development. Make it a life long commitment and investment to become the best version of yourself in mind, body and spirit.”

Victoria, 54, Social worker, Essex. 

“Trust your instinct, and don’t let pressure get in the way of it. At 23 I had doubts about my engagement, but went through with the wedding so not to let any one down. As soon as we were married he became extremely abusive and I found myself divorced by 25. Don’t waste years of your life unhappy. As soon as something doesn’t feel right or make your life better, remove it from your life.”

 

 

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Advice, Happiness, Uncategorized

Break Up to Wake Up

I have never heard anyone say a that their break up was easy. Even if it was the obvious option, a mutual decision, or for one parties best interests. Even if the love you shared has slowly dwindled into nothing but a comfortable familiarity. Even if that person ripped your heart into one trillion tiny pieces, the loss of a constant presence isn’t something that can be forgotten in the mili-second it takes to say, “Goodbye”. The simple yet agonising pain of missing someone can be overwhelming and at times inconceivable.

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Of course, some people are quicker to get over than overs, and some are lucky that they are kept busy or disconnected enough that time heals the pain faster without much thought. But, I am almost certain that even those people have at some point found themselves awake at four am thinking, “fuck.”

Love is a real strange thing. You meet a stranger. You like them. You spend your very precious time with them. You share your inner most feelings, emotions and fears with each other. Whether the connection hits you like a punch in the face or is more of a slow burner, creeping up on you unexpectedly, it becomes so strong that our emotions translate it in our brains as ownership. They are yours and you are theirs. Out of the 7.125 billion humans on planet Earth, you have a favourite.

Now take it right back to the begging: you meet a stranger. A stranger that has a whole universe of their own before they enter yours. A stranger that owes you absolutely nothing and to whom you owe nothing in return.

But our brains somehow persuade us that we will never ever ever find a stranger whom we prefer to the present favourite stranger, meaning that when the break up comes, we enter panic mode.

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Cat Stevens wrote, “the first cut is the deepest”. I personally believe that your first break up hurts more than any other. Largely due to the fact that after the first, you have the comfort of experience. You got over them, so you will get over the next. And the next after that.

At 20, I broke up with my first boyfriend after three years together. I honestly, seriously, literally thought I would never meet anyone that made me feel more at home than he did. I thought that, at 20 – 20!!!! – that I would end up un married and childless, with ten dogs and an extremely large wine cabinet, still crying myself to sleep over the loss of my first love.

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I can’t tell you that I felt amazing and free and could laugh at my previous sentiments after two weeks. The cold truth is that I was sad for a good six months. I tried to date after a while, but the table space between the new unknown man and I felt like light years. It wasn’t getting better. I then made the cliche mistake of organising a catch up (let’s-attempt-a-friendship / I-just-want-to-look-at-your-face-in-person) coffee, after which we kissed and I begged him for another chance. Cough he said no cough. I was humiliated, and the hurt I’d felt over the last four or five months quadrupled and hit me in one big blow. I promised I would never beg a man ever again.

After that incident, I felt better by the day. My mindset became completely different, until I met someone whose company I genuinely enjoyed and felt I could have sex with without crying afterwards. I never cried once. A few nice men later, I found myself head over heels in love again. This time, it was my first love that felt light years away, and the forever alone sentiment, down right laughable.

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It is never too late to move on from Mr. or Mrs. Wrong. My mum met her Mr. Right after a failed marriage, two children and countless relationships along the way, aged 49 in Stansted airport after a delayed flight. They have now been together for almost six years and are yet to have their first argument. That’s the best example I have, and it’s a pretty good one.

A big part of waking up after a break up is acceptance; accept who you are, what makes you happy and the kind of person that could add to your unique breed of happiness. Even if your heart is broken and it was completely that persons fault – it wasn’t really their fault – you just weren’t right for one another. Once you come to that understanding yourself through time, self love and rational thinking, that acceptance will come naturally, and forgiveness will follow. If hating that person gives you the power to move on, so be it, but only through letting go of that hate will you truly, truly move on and discover your true love within yourself and for another.

Louis CK said, “Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce.” It’s the same with all relationships, whether you’re married or have been dating for four months. A rational break up is always, always, always good news. Life is far too short to be in a complicated or anything less than happy, fulfilling relationship. Plus, the greatest things in our lives happen because something changes. Perhaps the relationship has been subconsciously holding you back from being exactly who you want to be or doing exactly what you want to do.

Being with the absolute right person for you is the easiest thing in the world. However much you try to tell yourself otherwise, or how ever much the nostalgia and the panic mode clouds it: if someone makes you miserable than they are not that person, and you should not be with them. Period. And anyway… You’ll never find the right person if you never let go of the wrong one.

You – whoever you are, whether I know you personally or not – are amazing, and you deserve happiness. The best thing you can do, the only thing you can do, is turn your hurt and heartbreak into a positive drive. Use this time to find yourself, excel at work, get healthy, sort out your shit with no ties. If you’re the revenge type (maybe you should re read the last few paragraphs if your answer is yes), happiness is the ultimate revenge. Being self destructive will get you absolutely NOWHERE. Take that from someone who has made that mistake and learnt from it.

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THINGS I WISH I’D BEEN TOLD TO DO 

  1. SPEND AS MUCH TIME WITH PEOPLE THAT MAKE YOU FEEL HAPPY AS POSSIBLE. Family, girlfriends, guy friends, your pets, your therapist… Etc.
  2. TREAT YOURSELF. Whether that be buying yourself a break-up-gift, pampering yourself, a holiday. Happiness if priceless, even if it’s fleeting. Although please keep in mind your rent.
  3. TALK ABOUT IT. If you can feel certain friends getting bored of it (insert question of friendship quality, sorrynotsorry), find someone that has perhaps been in your shoes and is a talker AND a listener. It really will help. They might even point out some things as an outsider that will bring you to your own realisations.
  4. DO NOT CALL/TEXT/EMAIL/‘ACCIDENTALLY’ BUMP INTO/MEET FOR ‘FRIENDLY’ COFFEE. Under no circumstances. Unless you share a child. Exchange possessions, get your shit and leave. I KNOW it’s hard but it really will make it a lot easier in the long run.
  5. READ:HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU IT’S CALLED A BREAK UP BECAUSE IT’S BROKEN HEAL AND MOVE ON 
  6. WATCH: 19 Best Movies to Watch After a Breakup  I couldn’t have written this list better myself. 
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FUCK YOU, FASHION

Fashion – 

noun: a popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behaviour.

verb: make into a particular form.

As a non celebrity, when you post tweet or a Facebook status, the last thing you expect is an industry uproar.

If you exist within or are at least acquainted with the London fashion universe, you’ll have heard the name ‘Charli Howard’ one hundred times this past fortnight. Her Facebook open letter to the fashion industry – specifically to her now ex-agency – has so far been shared 968 times, garnering so much attention that only days later she appeared on Channel 4 News and the BBC.

On Monday, vogue.com published an interview with her. Now THAT’S a fuck you to her ex agency.

Even the most loyal fashion worshipper is well aware of that this long time controversy within the fashion industry regarding the health of models. I remember an uproar in the mid noughties when the term “size zero” was massively talked about in the news and media after runway models literally starved themselves to death. A decade before that, a teenage Kate Moss was the poster girl for fashion movement “heroin chic”. And even with the seeming rise of plus size agencies, positive body image advocates and models like Cara Delevigne becoming known for their ‘personaltiy’, this issue is now so deep rooted that it has spread way beyond the realm of high fashion runway shows and magazines.

Fashion is arguably the most powerfully influencing industry in modern society. For all the positive, creative and, I suppose, entertaining outcomes, the negatives are terrifyingly dangerous. This is an industry that does not encourage liking yourself, whether you are a model or a consumer. It breeds a sense of genetic hierarchy based on looks alone, no matter how they try to sugarcoat it. It is the romanticism of a one dimensional way of life, that leaves many of us feeling subconsciously empty and not good enough. It is a race in which no one will ever will, because what we are aspiring to achieve is literally impossible.

When I began modelling, I was horrendously naive. I had what I thought was a sturdy high sense of self worth, so that when others around me discussed the negatives on the job, I shrugged them off with such classics as, “It won’t affect me”, “I won’t let myself be pressured into changing”, and “if I get told I’m not good enough, I’ll chuckle and dance and leave, head held high.” I never once considered how something I saw purely as a sweet money maker, could completely transform my self esteem and self perception.

Thankfully, I have never received complaints about measurements from an agency. But I have lost count the amount of times I have been upset by team members and casting managers’ comments about me. Me, a human being. Not a product or a 2d cardboard cut out. When it’s you they’re talking about, it suddenly becomes very personal. But at the same time, there is an underlying sense that it’s your fault, because no one forced you to be a model. You chose this job. You pay your rent because of this job. So, you shrug off all the little looks, whispers, tuts and scribbles, and they quietly store themselves into your subconscious until you start seeing a product when you look in the mirror, instead of a human being with emotions and thoughts.

I am someone that continues to model, albeit very carefully, even though I have recognised this. Maybe because for all it’s faults, being a model can still be fun, rewarding and almost addictive. But I am upset with fashion. I am sick of seeing beautiful, kind, intelligent girls slowly being churned through a factory system and left with broken self esteems and robotic falsities.

I am sick of the thought of normal little girls idolising, thinking that models bodies, features, hair and skin are normal and effortless, and therefore wrecking their minds and bodies striving for something so unattainable.

Since Charli’s honest and down right brave* admission, fresh stories of mistreatment, pressure and negativity continue to surface from current and retired models.

In an ideal world, this negative attention will see this domino effect continue to show ball into gigantic proportion, transforming the industry as a whole. For Vogue, the largest influencer of fashion worldwide, to support Charli, speaks volumes.

*”Brave” is often used lightly in feminist rants. A lot of the time, I disagree with the use of the word. My idea of a brave woman, for right use of the word, is Malala Yousafzai. But if you are too a model, you will agree that Charli’s out pouring was potentially detrimental to her career, so it was indeed brave of her to be so honest on such an open and accessible platform.

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Love & other drugs

Romantic relationships seem to be the underlying influence to our emotional and personal lives. Perhaps this is how humans have developed over centuries, but look back to further – Zeus’s lovers and Hera’s jealousy, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Lancelot and Guinevere, Layla and Majnun, Pyramus and Thisbe – and it becomes quite clear that romance, love and obsession are hardly modern ideas.

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The vast majority of movies, books, music and art are focused on love. In our culture, the majority of adults are in (or in and out) of relationships. Every single one of us are on this Earth due to a romantic relationship or at least a romantic exchange. It’s everywhere you go, and it’s inescapable.

I began my first relationship at 16, living my late teen years and early twenties in and out of love, without much time to comprehend the most important love of all – the love you have for yourself.

Around two years ago, I was single for the longest I’ve ever been – a year – and although it pains me to admit it, it was great. Not because I was “free”/able to sleep around, etc. But because for the first time, I met the real stripped down me – who as it turns out, I actually really liked. 

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If a relationship is right, it’s a wonderful place to be. But I can’t help but feel that we grow in a different kind of way when we’re single. There is a lack of intimate emotional support that deems we look after ourselves like Lionesses look after their cubs. Having a Lion is lovely, and in a weird way, reliving, but perhaps not as satisfying.

We are all aware of the cliche, “Love is drug”, suggesting love has good and bad consequences and addicting tendencies. But scientifically, love is a lot more of a drug than you would expect.

Relationships change the way our brain releases chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine, the chemicals that draw and keep us together. Oxytocin and dopamine make us feel a levelled euphoria. Oxytocin is what is released when a mother gives birth, therefore bonding her to her baby.

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The desperation we feel to stay together, no matter how rational a break up, isn’t just a fear of being alone – it is actually due to the withdrawal from oxytocin. Which is exactly why after days, week, or months, depending on the individual, we look back on break ups with the sense that it was the right thing to do, because our brain chemicals have returned to their normal level once the ‘love rehab’ has been completed.

Relationships are amazing, and I of course cannot speak for everyone. But personally, I am beginning to understand “love” as a chemical reaction, and becoming aware of the negative connotations within that “love”.

No matter how positive and loving the relationship may begin, If we’re not careful, co-dependency and the sense of needing each other for all the wrong reasons, can creep up so quietly and gently that we can look down to find ourselves stuck in waist high quick sand before we even have the chance to say, “We need to talk.”

This stage in a relationship is extremely exhausting. In the past, I have definitely felt that this stage has made me lose my sense of self and my self worth. Being in a close emotional relationship changes our understanding of ourselves, because Oxytocin tells us that “we are one” with that person, therefore blurring the lines of our inward individuality.

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I think most of us unconsciously have looked to our partners to meet our emotional needs whilst at least attempting to accept theirs. For me, years of disappointment has only highlighted the fact that you can never emotionally depend on another human. One, because it is totally unfair to them, and two, because only you and you alone can ever completely emotionally support yourself.

Trust me, this is a new admission for me. I once boasted my ability to remain a completely rounded independent individual within my relationships. I was sure that I would never ever obsess over a partner, revolve my life around theirs or let that person influence my choices or personality.

But ask yourself, really and truly – could you say this?

Or, subconsciously, have you craved unrealistic levels of attention from a partner? Let their mood, decisions, or interests influence yours? Become irrationally territorial over them? Felt a hyper sensitive sense of worthlessness due to their behaviours?

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It’s overwhelming to admit, that I have felt this in probably all of my serious romantic relationships, at some point or another. Instinctually, I thought, “Wow. I am really emotionally messed up.” But if I, a relatively normal, privileged, emotionally stable young woman has, maybe these aren’t such abnormal things after all.

 

I have a lot to learn when it comes to love and relationships. In the grand scheme of things, I haven’t finished the first chapter. But one thing I am sure of, is that we can not be responsible to fixing each other. We can support and encourage, but we each have our own needs and paths to follow. If the compatibility in a relationship is wavering, take a step back and reevaluate. I can tell you from experience that the break down of a relationship is not the end of your world – it’s the beginning of a new one. Maybe, on the way, you’ll fall in love with yourself and settle with that.  

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And if you find yourself lucky enough the meet the perfect person for you, a relationship between two happy individuals will be a lot more successful than two halves of one un happy couple.

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The Big Bang.

“Sometimes when you meet someone, there’s a click. I don’t believe in love at first sight but I believe in that click.” – Ann AguirreBlue Diablo

I’d say it’s more of a “bang”.

I recently accompanied my boyfriend to a business dinner. Usually, when meeting new people, I am met with the same mix of questions: Where do you live? What do you do? What’s your life plan? All replied to with boring cookie cutter answers I have told a thousand times. However, upon my first conversation with a fellow ‘partner’, I was surprised by a query that I have never before been asked: What is it that you love about your boyfriend?

I wanted to answer intelligently; not some cliche answer like he’s caring he’s funny yada yada. I thought for a few seconds, but I could not articulate it at all. I couldn’t pin point that thing that attracts you completely, solely to that one person that was once a stranger. All I could muster was, we just click.

I began to wonder: What is it in humans that makes us decide the difference between connections? We meet people that we have no interest in pursuing. We meet people that attract us physically or as compatible friends. And then, every once in a while, there’s those few that attach themselves to somewhere within us, and stick inside our heads for years to come. Why are some brains strangers to our own when some can become so naturally connected?

I’ve met plenty of men that I’ve found psychically attractive almost instantly. When you converse with them, the attraction either grows or shrinks. A connection could well blossom: it’s possible. I’m sure that happens all the time. That’s how most friendships and acquaintances begin.

But in my experience, there has only been a small handful of meetings over the course of my short twenty-two years alive that present an instant bond – a psychic language inside your heads. Almost like a, “Oh, there you are.”

With some it hits you like a punch in the face.

Think about it for a second: How many people in your life do you feel certain that you know? That you feel 100% yourself and content with? No pretence, no sociability, no secrets, no effort, no inner monologue in the back of your head during conversation telling you “Don’t say that”, “What do they mean?”, or “I’d rather be with someone else.”

There is a monologue in Frances Ha!, that encapsulates this thought:

“It’s that thing when you’re with someone, and you love them and they know it, and they love you and you know it… but it’s a party… and you’re both talking to other people, and you’re laughing and shining… and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes… but – but not because you’re possessive, or it’s precisely sexual… but because… that is your person in this life. And it’s funny and sad, but only because this life will end, and it’s this secret world that exists right there in public, unnoticed, that no one else knows about. It’s sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us, but we don’t have the ability to perceive them. That’s – That’s what I want out of a relationship. Or just life, I guess.”

Feeling a connection with a fellow human being is an incredible thing, whether it be romantic or not. After all, some of the most rewarding connections I’ve experienced are with girlfriends and family members.

Although. I can’t help but feel that romantic connections could hold negative connotations. In Wuthering Heights, Kathy says:

“He’s more myself that I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

Poetic, yes. Romantic, yes. Healthy? Maybe not.

In the past, I’ve felt amazingly strong connections with people that I now would pass in the street. And that terrifies me.

Because, just because someone has seen the dustiest, darkest corners of your mind, and claims to understand them, it does not mean that they love you unconditionally and it definitely does not make you safe.

“We are all searching for someone whose demons play well with ours.” Just be sure that those demons know how to calm each other after all the fun.

Your soul mate does not need to be your perfect man/woman. It can be your best friend. Your mum. Someone sitting next to you on your commute. Human connection is a beautiful thing. But so is being aware of your part in the connection. Because the best connection you will ever experience, is your relationship with yourself.

Title quote: Ann AguirreBlue Diablo

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