Should I be freaking out?

Thanksgiving is not something I have ever celebrated, being from the UK it isn’t a tradition I was brought up on. However, this year I was invited to have Thanksgiving dinner with some family. Sitting at the table was an ex Investment Banker, the Director of a successful Advertising Company, a Children’s Theatre Manager, an Events Manager, a medical student about to receive his Doctorate and me… a receptionist and the youngest in the room by only a matter of months. Throughout the meal a thick helping of loaded questions was sprinkled upon me, the sum of which  was: “what are you doing with your life?”  I feel as though its a horrible question that people are asked only at the times of their lives when it is obvious that they don’t know what they’re doing. From my online ramblings alone, I think it is pretty clear that this has been a tumultuous year for this somewhat sporadic writer. And I ask myself this same question pretty much every day…”What are you doing with your life?” Honestly, I don’t know. I sit in an office in central London, working with perfectly nice people, in a perfectly nice job feeling perfectly unsatisfied. A bit like being in the gilded cage, its all very nice but its not enough. This weekend, I met up with the girls I used to live with at University. Of the 6 of us, 5 were living at home, and working in the gilded cage, trainee lawyers who worked their arses off for three years back in offices and retail outlets because that’s how you have to do it to get a trainee-ship. I’m told that we are supposed to get ourselves on the job ladder, to seek work from work. But how is that possible when you don’t know what you’re doing now, let alone what you want to do for the rest of your life.

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It’s a shock spending 4 years away from home living what you thought was ‘independently’, using your student loan to buy food and pay rent, using money from a part time job to get yourself drunk on the days where you should have been working, then moving back home. I am one of the lucky ones; I live at home and I have an amazing relationship with my ma and her man, we eat dinner together every night, we have breakfast together on weekends. So for me, the pull of ‘independence’ is not so strong what with the lack of rent to pay and the constant feeling of support. In truth, I know that the only way for me to find me impetus to move would be to find my dream job somewhere I couldn’t get to from home in less than an hour by train. Very few of my friends have moved out of home, and those who have are paying though the nose for rent and bills. At the end of my working month, less than a grand goes  into my bank account. I am staying put until its at least a grand and a half. A lot of the time it is easy to get my head down at work, binge watch a series on an internet TV site and not think about the future. Other times, like Thanksgiving, I begin to freak out asking myself endless unanswerable questions; have I wasted my degree and gotten myself into over 10k’s worth of debt to sit in reception all day doing nothing? Was doing a drama degree a terrible mistake? Was my father right to unsuccessfully try to dissuade me for all those years? I felt, after this meal last week, about an inch tall. I was useless, going nowhere, I had no wish to act anymore because I dislike the attitude of young actors, I had no qualifications to get myself a job which I could potentially do well in. What I do have is my ma. I have my mates. I have a support network that will never fail me. Even if I feel I am failing myself.

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I have a friend who is an actor. He has gotten pretty constant work from when he left uni to the present (he’s currently touring with a show!) We had the most brutally honest conversation the other day over a glass of red wine in a virtually empty pub in North London. We came to this conclusion: everyone is struggling in some way or another. Whether its the problem of making ends meet and paying rent, whether its finding a job that makes you happy so that scraping by doesn’t matter so much, whether its freaking out because the idea of getting yourself a mortgage and paying real bills every month. Everyone of my generation, bar those who managed to sort themselves out (hats off), is freaking out a little. It seems as though we have to settle in one part of our lives, if we want a good job which pays well, we have to let go of our passion. If we follow our passion we wave a tearful farewell to financial security and what my friend described as comfort. Comfort comes in many forms, whether its treating yourself to a solo Wagamama’s at the end of a brutal day of envelope stuffing or receiving a drawn out hug from a parent. Comfort is one of those little things that can make everything ok, and put you in the frame of mind that says “Life is not so bad”.  So when comforts are few and far between, when pressure from sources out of your control gets too much, when you are unhappy at work, what do you do? Make time.

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It might be the spirit of the holiday season which is forced upon us like acid rain, but I honestly feel as though making time to see friends and family around this time of year is worth its weight in wine. And gold. And gin. And cheese. In all seriousness though, when you feel as though you are drowning in your worries, that you’ll be alone forever and die alone only to be eaten by Alsatians, that you’ll never pay this month’s rent on time, that you’ll be eating tinned beans until March, that you getting a promotion is about as likely as unicorn orgies; just find some time to spend with your loved ones. Talk things out, be honest. The less you talk about what’s worrying you, the more gravity you give it. Everyone is freaking out. Its only natural that you are too.

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Girls…Please

Many moons ago, in my first year of uni, I was all about the heels and the dresses. Night after night I would go out dressed to the nines, wearing heels that made me look like an unsteady baby giraffe and more make up than you could shake a packet of face wipes at, only to inevitably come home, shoes in one hand, wadge of toilet roll in the other desperately trying to mop up the tequila and shame from my skirt. These nights out were a meat market, a cat walk without the glamour, during which time the sole aim was to be considered ‘fit’ by the dribbling masses slurring into their jagerbombs and forgetting your name every ten seconds. I shiver now when I think of the money I spent on these dresses, the time I wasted convincing myself that I would totally wear those heels all the time and the smiles and fake laughs I wasted on those mugs in the smoking area who didn’t give a fuck what your favorite Kubrick film was as long as they could tongue you.  I remember the significance those nights out had, how important it was to look good, to look like everyone else, to dare to wear the tiniest skirt, the highest heels, to pull off that quiff and why? Because it gave you some sense of self, some evidence that you exist in the eyes of others, and you know, since I stopped giving a shit, more people have been interested in talking to me. Gone is the girl who would get too drunk smile and laugh and play along, she has long since been replaced with a more superior model; the girl who is quicker than you, funnier than you and can take an insult better than you. Beware, females, your doe lashes and hair extensions will only take you so far, but what happens when they come off and all you have is you, and you’ve forgotten how.

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As I take the final pull on my cigarette before extinguishing it against the side of TGI Fridays, I see the hoards of girls begin to flock by in a milee of tiny skirts, huge coifs and heels that could kill a man. Inside ten female traipse in, each wearing heels and dresses that would make a drag queen blush. There is a sense of competition in the air as she who dares will surely be carried off over the shoulder of some hulking rugby player who has replaced his brains with biceps and foregone having a neck in favor of having pecks like dinner plates. This competition is at the centre of it all, the push up bras, the heels, the holding in tights, the false eyelashes, the mesh skirts, the see-through tops. I saw a girl wearing a white pencil skirt which was all but see-through throw shade at this girl for wearing a tiny black dress displaying both T and A. Hilarious, pot kettle slut! This is it though, these girls are going out dressed like they’re going to some horrendous TOWIE party, they work all week in jobs they hate, developing no real interests or hobbies focusing everything they are on how they look, the clothes they wear, the next color to dye their hair and literally living for the two nights a week they can put on a costume and pretend to be like the people they see on these horrendous shows (The Kardashians, Jersey Shore, The Valleys) when these people do fuck all with their lives. Oh look, Kim Kardashian posted another selfie online, why? Because she has no fucking life, she spends money, she has her picture taken and she goes home wondering why she still feels empty inside even though there is a generation of girls coming who want to be just like her. Forget Ellen Page and Michelle Obama because Jordan just released another autobiography about her life, oh, Emma Watson did a nice speech at the UN, that’s cute but look Rita Ora just dyed her hair pink, I wonder if  I could pull that off.

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Meanwhile, in my leggings and t shirt I tuck into a burger the size of my head, having already tucked into two starters waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, I have no shame. We all meet for dinner and head our separate ways to get ready for our friends’ birthday night out, for some this means taking out the rollers they wore at dinner, applying fake tan and picking one of the ten dresses they brought to wear. For me it meant having a shower, sticking me face on (and attempting contouring) and pulling on my jeans and top. Boom. Low maintenance. Ready. I even have time to roll a joint which I will share with the only guy in the group before we brave the land of spanx and blisters.

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As we head out, most are already drunk, girls walking around looking like Bambi on ice in heels that will doubtless be worn for an hour to deliver maximum effect when strutting into that first bar, to show in the split second that less than half the eyes in the place will be on you, that you take care of yourself, you make an effort, you’re a hottie.  Meanwhile, yours truly draws looks all night wearing black jeans, doc martens and a  nondescript black strap top. How upsetting for those who spent hours on their hair and make up to be ignored in favour for she who made the most minimal effort possible, and isn’t even remotely drunk when she cracks out her best grunge dance moves (all knees and face). I should point out now that it is not everyone’s fault that they are so drunk, the drinks in Swansea are hilariously cheap, at one bar I got a sizable cocktail for £6, a tequila for £2 and a Disaronno Cranberry for £3, so its no surprise that at one point I see a woman in a pencil skirt cuffed and escorted by police still holding her stilettos.  Also, tits. Tits everywhere in Swansea, little tits shown off with a plunging neckline in a backless number, tits propped up by so much foam they’re popping out of the tops these girls shouldn’t even bother to wear and the sheer amount of fake tits about was staggering. The rest of the night was harmonious, we kept to ourselves, danced like we were the Supremes, Michael Jackson and Beyonce all rolled into one. One of the girls in heels disappeared and returned triumphant and smug in flip flops and I have never been so proud.  It was traumatic for me to be confronted with the types of people I thought ceased to exist after 2009, but I feel secure in the knowledge that eventually they will go, fuck this, catapult their spanx out the window and opt for something comfy and let themselves be themselves rather than the girl who’s face they put on to go out in.

 

Beauty is Gross

 

I can deny it no longer, summer is here, tights banished to the back of the drawer and this (for me at least)  means one thing: time to step up the old beauty regimen. Blessed as I am with lady friends with whom I can be completely open, I have come to realize the hilarious irony of the foul things we put ourselves through in the name of beauty. From shaving to Veeting we are a living in an age where prepubescent hairlessness is not only preferred but expected by the masses, and its not just women. Thanks, in part, to shows like jersey shore and TOWIE male grooming is fast catching up with its long-established feminine equivalent. Waxing hairy shoulders and investing in periodical back sack and crack maintenance are now considered general housekeeping for today’s man and I am not going to berate them for this. Eyebrow grooming in men should be minimal the aim is not to look like a drag queen or Gwen Stefani circa 2004.  However, I personally must draw the line at removing chest and armpit hair, these are a magnificent manly things, I have a particular penchant for a strong snail trail, or the garden path as i like to call it.

 

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Meanwhile, in Girl World, we are doing everything we can to remain smooth and hairless everywhere we can without looking stupid. Only our brows and lashes are safe, everything else is fair game. Its pretty ridiculous that we wait with anticipation to grow our first pubes only to annihilate them as soon as they arrive on the scene. It starts when we see the ladies on the Venus ads, splashing about in pools in a tropical climate (because that’s where you shave your legs, under a waterfall in the amazon, and you definitely won’t contract a nasty infection) and you think, I too wish to be a smooth goddess; so you buy your first razor and shred your legs into ribbons, they don’t show you that on TV! Then you realize that not only is a shaving cut THE most painful thing in the world, but that they just will not stop bleeding. EVER. So then you discover Veet and Nair, two products which literally dissolve the hair upon which they are smeared, how convenient, how easy. But the SMELL, sweet Jesus lord, the smell. Rotten eggs sprayed with Febreeze, on your legs, on your foof, on your upper lip. Oh yeh, where there’s hair, there’s Nair. Its an easy way of doing things but it just isn’t worth having everything in a 5 mile radius smell like a dead pigeon.  So then you try waxing, because you’ve heard great things; nothing extreme at first, you have your friends warm up the prepared strips by rubbing them between their hands, and then you cover your legs in these strips and get someone else to tear them off.  OUCHIE!! Eventually you try Epilating which was invented in the 15th century as a way of torturing, alongside the rack,  people into the confession of crimes they were innocent of. Epilators work by tearing out each individual hair at the root as you roll it up your leg, like tweezing, but times 30. Are you absolutely kidding me?! Not a chance. Personally, it didn’t take me long to accept that I would stick to shaving for the foreseeable future, I just have to be extra careful in the danger zones (ankles, shins, knees) and yes ladies, we all shave our toes.

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So legs wrangled under the control of your trusty razor, we come to realize that an unkempt bikini line is not what you want in your life. So you begin to experiment with different management styles. I find the different ways of maintaining your lady garden are very much the product of experimentation, a friend of mine was told from a young age to TWEEZE her bikini like. Now I guess when it’s literally just the bikini line itself, that’s not so bad, plucking out strays here and there so it doesn’t look like there’s a spider in your knickers, that’s just fine. But this friend then explained that she would regularly spend about two hours tweezing her entireness, which resulted in a cricked neck and (years later) much ridicule….from me. You can try waxing but the idea of hot wax anywhere near my foofla is something that fills me with horror, plus all the dangers of ingrowing hairs, the fact that you have to keep getting it done and it costs you like £20 a pop. Personally, I stick to shaving, there’s nothing like that glorious position you get yourself into to really make sure you do a thorough job, I’m talking to squat and shave, the Brazilian squat if you will, hey the better you squat the smoother your twat, am I right? Yes…I am. That’s another thing, how do you know how much to take off?  Like I’ve always just gone whole hog, mainly because I can never shave a straight landing strip, but some of my friends think its bizarre to look like a 12-year-old girl down there?! There is no right or wrong answer here, its all a question of what you like. I don’t feel that this applies to men. Men folk, please, for the love of all things manly, do not get rid of your manly shrubbery, by all means trim and maintain, but to be bald there… Just no!

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Then women start stripping their arms, their armpits, their upper lips. Actually this last is hilarious, I once watched my mother sit and read a book whilst casually sporting an Einstein style Veetstache. Then come things like fake tanning, I mean the stuff that comes in a tube looks like Marmite and smells like a tramp’s shoe, the stuff they spray you with makes your entire body smell like an armpit. Then there’s the problem of it going all streaky, getting the wrong shade done and looking like Katie Price. There’s the pain of threading, the mess of teeth whitening and the stinging of getting your eyelashes tinted.   All of these things in the name of beauty! How completely hysterical is that?! We put ourselves through frankly UGLY processes in order to look more beautiful, and don’t even get me started on plastic surgery, sweet Lord! The injecting of chemicals all over our bodies in order to alter our natural appearance more often than not goes horribly wrong, let us not forget the likes of Leslie Ash and The Jacksons. Lets just stick to ripping, cutting and burning our hairs away for now, shall we?

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Gympatience

Gympatience is a phenomenon which occurs when one finally decides to haul ones ass to the gym, and grows impatient when results aren’t instantaneous. With my first pay from my new job,I bought myself a pair of bright orange Nike Free Run iDs. With my second, I got myself a gym membership to the gym right by where I work. I now have no excuse but to go to the gym. At the particular establishment which I am starting to frequent, there is a personal trainer who I will refer to as SBG (Sexy Bald Guy) who is probably the only reason I’m so committed to going at least thrice a week. SBG is in his late 30s, and is one of few men who has managed to go to the gym and not end up looking like a horrific cave man/ hulk hybrid. He is toned and muscular but he still, somewhat miraculously, has a neck! Hurrah! So i had some free sessions with him, and it turns out, I can tone up simply by doing a little weight training and a little cardio for 20 mins three times a week! IDEAL!

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So summer is coming, Bikini Panic is occurring all over the world, and cupcakes have never looked so sexy. They peek at you from all over the place, behind glass counters in coffee shops, all over platters at family parties, blushing with pink icing, flashing a strip of  chocolaty muffin top before all is hidden beneath the thin layer of a pastry case. The sluts. Salad is making an effort, collecting together the best parts of the season in the shape of brightly coloured peppers, sweet vine tomatoes and creamy feta cheese, but it will always look like a sack of shit when placed beside the glory of a freshly made meringue pavlova oozing with raspberry coulis and chocolate mouse. Oh summery desserts, you are the bane and the beauty of the next few months, tantalizing me with your zesty yet creamy fillings, your sticky, crumbly, crunching texture and your empty, sugary, malicious calories. ‘You know you can’t resist me’, the siren cupcake murmers with a voice like honey, ‘Just one bite, no-one has to know!’ You resist!  Walking away, an ice cream catches your eye, ‘Oh, but I’m so delicious, and its summer! When else can we be together like this?’

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You find yourself salivating, your eyes drawn to all things naughty! Why is everything so much more delicious when its hot! Burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, scones, whipped cream, donuts, french fries and fucking pizza all baying for your attention like the gorgons on the rocks, luring you in with sweet sticky promises then devouring you whole. What’s a girl to do?!

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We ignore the temptation around us, throwing ourselves through the doors of the gym, out of our front doors, into the local school hall for Zumba and we move our gelatinous asses in the hopes that we will jiggle them right off! Lately I’ve been massively addicted to the health and fitness section on Pinterest. I go there for inspiration (NOT THINSPIRATION…this is a hugely unhealthy way to look. You want to be strong. Not thin) I see stories of ladies who have lost half their body weight and the only way to do it is to work hard and commit. So I am… fucking finally. I’ve flirted with the idea before, but never really bothered to stick with it but I’m in the right head space now. This weekend was horrific, surrounded by tiger bread, real butter (be still my frothing thighs), cupcakes, kettle chips and SO MUCH BOOZE I managed to stay strong. I owe it to myself to get this waist nipped in the bud! Its week 3 now. Just you wait til week 12 bitch.

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Progress

So I don’t know whether its Bikini Panic, something in the water or the relentless romantic knock-backs, but something has changed within me (something is not the same). The last few months has seen some new sense of substance arriving with a force strong enough to have blown away a lot of the negativity i once embraced as a loved one. Living in the dark realms of catatonia used to be far more appealing, there was a sense of lone heroism to seeing the world through smog smeared glasses. The tempestuous nature of this kaleidoscope of mine has settled somewhat, and the sequins and glitter are beginning to gingerly swim into focus. I won’t pretend that life is sunshine, lollipops, puppies and rainbows because it isn’t, but it also isn’t rain-clouds and constant impending doom. Instead of it being an epic battle, rushing forward with my  battalion of mismatched soldiers, swords swinging, arrows flying, hooves, antlers, metal and bone shattering against the force of each other, its been more like sliding into a scorching hot bath; burning and uncomfortable at first, but I’m slowly submerging myself into this warmer sense of self.

 

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Things that would have sent me tumbling into the abyss where I would live, Gollum-like,  for days feeding myself on the tender flesh of my guilt and self-loathing, now merely smart on the surface of me, like the embers of cigarette ash, blistering for a few seconds, then all but gone. If anyone had told me a year ago I would be content, I wouldn’t have believed them, I would probably have snorted and offered up some hilarious remark about how content I was in my little pit of negation, how comfortable it was sleeping with a mind full of thorns every night. The difference in me feels huge, I’m not obsessing over things as much as I used to, I’m adopting a duck’s back in place of my own, letting everything roll over me like a wave of glorious indifference. Yes nasty things still happen every now and then, but they aren’t world-enders like before. Don’t get me wrong, the social inadequacy is still there in bucket-loads, I’m already panicking about a friend’s birthday party at the end of May when I’ll have to meet new people and try not to over think every little detail of said social encounter. But I know that there will be people there who I can have a quiet little freak out to, who will hand me a cigarette and tell me to calm my tits.