Tuesday, 10 May 2016

ASMR is killing my Anxiety / Insomnia! Woohoo!

What in the heck is ASMR? Have you heard of it? It has completely changed my life! OK that sounds super dramatic but it’s definitely changed my sleep and that, in turn, has changed my life. Because I am less tired. So my life is mildly better, but you know that IS a change, technically speaking. 

But what IS it though?  

The pseudo-scientific name itself is an acronym. Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. A phrase coined by Jennifer Allen, who came up with this term after years of discussions in internet forums (because, of course) with fellow experiencers of the "tingles". The best way to describe the feeling is a warm, comforting, tingly sensation...like hairs on your neck standing up or prickles in your hair line.... as a response to seeing but, more often than not, HEARING certain sounds. It's an extremely pleasurable experience.... like a mild euphoria

Another way to describe it is, when you were younger, did you enjoy your parent / friends brushing your hair, or stroking your arm? Wait....now come on.... that's not what I mean. Right so before we go any further, because I sense some alarm bells....this isn't in any way a SEXUAL pleasure. Well, not for me anyway. And arguably not for the most part in the ASMR community...although ...this IS the internet and of COURSE you're gonna find some pervs willing to whip their pants off for a fumble at the drop of a hat. But as a rule, the ASMR community (yes, there is one!) feel quite strongly about the fact that it is a non-sexual pleasure based response. 

The reality though is that it’s a bit of a “made-up” phenomenon. Only in that, there’s yet to be much proper scientific research to investigate why CERTAIN people respond in a CERTAIN way to things known as ASMR triggers. I am affected by some triggers, in a strong way but some people aren't. And I am guessing they are the biggest sceptics. The tingles I experience are ones you tend to feel in your head or a prickly, warm sensation in your skin and DEFINITELY not in your rudey parts! But some people are still sceptical about this too. (E.g. this pheromone-drenched 

How did I even happen upon this phenomenon? Originally I'd seen something fleeting in my Facebook feed. I hadn't given it much thought and then I saw a tweet from fellow tingle-aholic Clara:

I was instantly hooked. She sent me a link to her fav/least annoying ASMR video maker, Heather Feather (there's a million gatrillion on YouTube...you have to pick what/who you respond to the best) and I've been addicted every night ever since. She also likes tapping....I can't get with tapping. But it's a fairly subjective experience ....glued together by commonly liked scenarios. My favourites are "personal attention" videos. So someone pretending to give me a facial. (Again, steady on at the back!)  This is something I absolutely love in real life so the idea that I'm having one every night is so, so lovely. I've included a video of my number ASMR maker below.... I find her voice hypnotic and I love that she brushes the screen so the sounds in your ears are like those you'd experience at the time. 
I'll link to another fav with a very triggering video for me at the end of this post and I defy you not to slip into a coma of relaxation afterwards. 


There are of course, arguments (especially from those who don't /can't experience the tingles) that this is utter time-wasting nonsense. Well of course, if you get nothing from it, then jog on. But for me and fellow peeps who experience the heebie-jeebies (aka anxiety/panic) this is one of the most soothing ways I've found to ease it. I felt super anxious the other night and within minutes I was calm....just because my mind was completely focused on the relaxing sounds I was listening to. I feel like it works a in a similar way to mindfulness. It keeps you present, in that moment, not thinking about past or future but there and experiencing how you feel right then. This is grade A awesomeness for me. I've never had such a quick/immediate way to deal with the collywobbles. 

But not only that, I am infamous on my social media accounts for moaning about insomnia. Well my nightly addiction to these videos has really helped. I get to sleep much more quickly because I am just so relaxed by the time I switch off. It's been even more beneficial to me than all the sleep / mediation apps I've used in the past. And it means I can't wait to go to bed most nights...often going an hour early just so I can lie there and "tingle". That's not like me at ALL! I'd normally give my right arm before giving in to bedtime!

So had you heard of ASMR? Do you get triggered or do you think it's nonsense? If you are already a pro, let me know your fav vids (links welcome here, Twitter or Facebook). My one and only concern is, chasing the intensity of the tingle! In a similar way to a junkie looking for a bigger hit, I can spend hours starting videos and not "feeling it" and searching through hundreds more just to hit my tingle bone.... can anyone else relate to this? I'll leave you with another tingler for you and await the deluge of response! 

Monday, 14 March 2016

Anorexia is NOT Narcissism.

On Sunday this weekend, The Telegraph published an interview with Joan Bakewell in which she pondered if Anorexia Nervosa, endemic amongst young girls today, was purely narcissistic. It was an ill informed statement at best but I think quite representative of what a lot of the older generation think of their younger counterparts. And it’s dangerous.

She has since apologised, retracted and explained that she didn’t know her comments would be published. I still feel that even with an apology, her thought process needs some addressing.

Let’s get one thing clear from the start. Anorexia is NOT narcissistic. A narcissicist is a very specific personality trait and nothing to do with having a mental illness. A severe mental illness, which IS what Anorexia is. And it has a high death toll. It has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.  

It’s not about appearance, it’s about control. Controlling what goes in your mouth very often as result of not being able to control events around you. And this not eating, or eating in a disordered way is a symptom of a much deeper psychological issue. It’s almost like asking a self harmer if they cut their arms to match their outfits!

Although it may appear rife amongst models, young actresses and pop stars there are reasons why they might be more susceptible to mental illness that goes beyond a vain obsession with their looks. People in the public eye are often emotionally vulnerable, under constant scrutiny and pressure from the industry and peers to look their best. It seems to me that the main reason anyone suffers anorexia in these circumstances is a clamouring to regain control. Anorexics very rarely look in the mirror with their bones jutting out at awkward angles and think “I look fantastic!”.

In fact for anyone with disordered eating, appearance is low down on the priority list. For example, a lot of bulimic people are overweight or even obese. I should know, I was bulimic for years and my weight fluctuated wildly. And I can say with some certainty that my bulimia started in a time of extreme emotional turmoil and had very little to do with how I looked. For me it was way of punishing myself for my own greed and hatred of myself at a time when I felt desperately alone. The thought that someone could accuse me of vanity leaves an even more sour taste in my mouth than the bile I was regularly retching up.

What really astonished me about the article in question was the Bakewell’s point about Syrian refugees: 

"No one has anorexia in societies where there is not enough food. They do not have anorexia in the camps in Syria”

What a low blow. How could she ever think that it’s ok to compare someone suffering from a mental illness to people suffering from famine? Just have a cake! There are people starving in Africa/Asia/our own country....!

Not only extremely reductive of a deadly mental illness but also untrue. We are lucky in the west to have access to psychiatric practices. That support to even diagnose illness (let alone address) is very often just not available, especially in war torn countries. So there could be far more unreported incidents of Anorexia but studies of mental health in the non-western world are far less abundant. Thankfully these days that IS changing.  

However, even if:

Western culture in particular contributes to the development of eating disorders, including the specific form or diagnosis of a disorder, the expression of distress, and a sufferer’s concept of abnormality, …(it) is not a necessary cause” 

(quoted from Jennifer Hatfield’s study on the implications of non western Anorexia.) That is to say that a person’s Anorexia has not been caused by her/his up-bringing in western culture even if that culture has perhaps exacerbated it.

Bakewell said: anorexia was “called hunger when we were young” 

Making ill informed, derogatory remarks about how society is these days really gets my goat (as mentioned previously here). Yes there is no denying that society does seem to be heaping on the pressure for appearance and wanting to look your best but the “not in my day” argument just doesn’t wash. There is plenty of historical evidence of the existence of anorexia before the 20th/21st century. And that in itself goes toward dispelling the vanity myth championed by Ms Bakewell when she states that she is:

alarmed by anorexia among young people, which arises presumably because they are preoccupied with being beautiful and healthy and thin.”

We have to be really careful about how we treat the younger generation. No one should be treated with belittling derision about their “silly obsession with appearance”. People in their late teens, early 20s are among the most vulnerable of all but also arguably the most important. They are the ones who will shape our future and they are the ones who will ultimately be responsible for progression in our society. We should show them more respect and not reduce their experiences, (especially not in the media) to silly nonsense.  

My conclusion is this, if you have an opinion, make sure you do some flipping research before you spout your “truth” to the world.


Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Win a copy of The Mother Book! Competition time!

Competition time! 

Win a copy of Molly Gunn's brilliantly curated 

Win your very own copy of the brilliant book which will then be sent to you in the first class post. 

Reasons to enter:

It's a must read for all mothers everywhere. 
It's a mixture of brilliant, funny, silly, poignant, heart-wrenching, emotional-rollercoaster-writing covering all facets of motherhood compiled by the best posts on blogazine over on Selfish Mother


"In the true spirit of Selfish Mother we're giving £2 profit from every book to an ace charity; mothers2mothers who believes in the power of mothers to end paediatric AIDS. M2M train, employ, and empower mothers living with HIV to bring health and hope to other mothers, their families, and communities."

And of course:  I am in it! 

Good luck! The winner will be picked at random by the rafflecopter next tuesday and I will contact you via Twitter, email or Facebook to let you know. 

And share share share! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 29 February 2016

My Mum is Awesome. I just didn’t always know how much.

♥ My Momma ♥
My mum was a stay at home mum. From the day she had me, 39 years ago until the present day she hasn’t had much paid work. How LAZY. What a LUXURY. What did she DO all day? Did she spend her time going out for lunch, shopping and going to the gym like a footballer’s wife? I know she at LEAST went for coffee every morning after school drop off! All my other friend’s mums had jobs or even careers. My Grandmother and my Nana also worked. Why didn’t my mum work?

As a teenager I struggled with this. Those were my judgemental, critical, ill-informed thoughts.

Hark, the ignorance of youth!

In my younger school years, my future career choices had varied wildly… from vet (too thick), to speech therapist (why?!) to farmer (too veggie/precious city-ite). But I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise because what I really wanted to do was be a mum. A mum like my mum. I thought her life was BRILLIANT! She got to stay at home and play with her kids and have loads of fun whilst all those other fools went off to work on the sweaty tube every morning! Ha! She had it SUSSED! And I loved kids. LOVED them! I spent all my weekends babysitting from age 13 and my first summer job was childminding a 9yr old when I was 16. It was the PERFECT plan for me! I was going to be a stay at home mum too because I was BRILLIANT with kids too! Yes! I was going to have 20 of them (OK about 6) and we would have amazing “Swallows and Amazons” style adventures every day! Yes I just wanted to be a mum for my “job” please!

But then I started to grow up. And I began to see that this wasn’t actually a realistic or viable option. Or even something I should admit to amongst my ambitious, burgeoning Feminist, career-focused peers. I had to come up with a career choice to appease my teachers because I needed to choose GCSEs and A-Levels (but I didn’t really have a clue what I wanted to do). And I needed a career to live because I wasn’t ACTUALLY going to try and find a MAN to support me, duh!

And hang on, why DID my mum just do NOTHING all day….God didn’t she have any self-respect?! She’s just a lady of leisure! She should get a flipping paid job!
I had some harsh, harsh thoughts about my mother’s career or what I perceived as “lack thereof” back in the day.

Oh boy, I had me some learning to do.

As I got older, the thick mist of selfishness which descends in teenagedom began to lift. And with age comes experience and wisdom. The older I got the more I saw and understood what my mum had REALLY been doing all those years when we were in school. And yes there had been a few lovely lunches and coffee every morning. But life had been pretty tough for her years before that. She’d moved from crazy, busy London to the sleepy valleys in Wales at the age of 19. Her and my Dad had no money (the story of the £1 a week family allowance and one rasher of bacon for the weekly macaroni cheese is now legend in our house!). Not only did she have to make new friends whilst my dad went to work every day, walk everywhere because she couldn’t drive (the doctors was a 2 mile walk) she also had to adjust to living on the breadline. On top of this she had to cope with 2 miscarriages and my pregnancy in which the hormone injections to prevent further miscarriages made her sick as a dog every day.

I’ve talked before about how I struggled with motherhood when I finally achieved my life’s goal. I wasn’t the natural I’d arrogantly assumed I’d be and it was a massive shock to me. The respect I had for my mother increased exponentially.

She was only 20 when she had me. She had none of the support or information that I’d had from my friends, NCT class mates, extended family, the internet, the soft play centres, One Born Every Minute, the breast feeding support nurses and the all of the barrage of PARENTING STUFF you’re given these days. In 1976, you had your family and your neighbours and you “just got on with it”. But living in the valleys my mum didn’t have family within walking distance. So she did just “get on with it”. AND she didn’t get postnatal depression or become a raging alcoholic! How the hell did she do that?! I had all that support and I still went mad as a box of frogs!

Her brilliance didn’t end with her “just getting on with it”.  

Staying at home with 2 under 2 for four years is flipping HARD WORK. Something I actively chose to avoid. But once my brother and I were older and going to school, she didn’t get a job. And now, as a mother, I understand that decision. She chose to carry on the support she’d given us every day of our pre-school days. She wanted to be there for us when we got home after school every day of the week.

She started to help out in the school as an unpaid teaching assistant. She'd help teach kids to read (she read to us every night until we were about 10!) and do things like pottery with them. She became actively involved with the PTA so she was always helping to organise fundraisers. But her real talent was the creative side of home-making. She would cook delicious meals every night from scratch. No ready meal crap allowed! Every birthday heralded a very good attempt from Jane Asher’s iconic cake decorating book and inevitably some sort of fancy dress celebration. She spend hours at the sewing machine creating things like fabulous dressing up outfits or dens, or painting things like “space ship” control panels with bottle top buttons and craft cheese steering wheels. She decorated the entire house herself, from wallpapering, glossing, and painting to making Laura Ashley curtains, bedspreads and Christmas table cloths. She was there for us every day after school, carting us off (on foot) to our various clubs/sports/music lessons etc. She was fantastic.

And only really recently, since my son has been in school have I realised that actually, I would LOVE to be able to be there for them after school every day. It hadn’t occurred to me, when thinking about having kids in the future that I wouldn’t be. But then it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d find it all so hard either. I’m clearly not great at having things “occur” to me.

I do feel really sad that for the majority of my kids’ school lives I won’t be there to pick them up. I already feel the strain of trying to organise play dates for Gus on the one day I currently pick him up, juggling between my selfish desire to spend time with him to his need to socialise with school mates. In a way I feel like I made the decision to opt of the hard years by working part time so I should suck up the consequences now. With my mum, she did hard time with 2 tiny kids in the middle of nowhere with no money or PLAY CENTRES and she reaped the rewards of after school fun and holidays later.

But as I said. The main thing my experience as a mother has taught me is just how bloody awesome my OWN mother is. So mum, just in time for Mother’s day this year, a mahoosssive THANK YOU.

A selection of things she made, And a pic of her and me at my first birthday. ps I LOVED that tutu!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

A Year On from "Drugs Saved My Marriage"

A Year On from “Drugs Saved My Marriage”.

It’s been a year since I wrote and published one of my most definitive blog posts to date. It was an emotional rollercoaster to write and after reading and re-reading and editing and making Emlyn read and re-read it, I pressed publish. I had some amazing feedback. It really seemed to resonate with people, especially mothers and I had some amazing comments from all corners: friends, family, strangers, even people I hadn’t heard from in years.

I can’t believe how much difference a year makes. I could never have predicted that 2015 would have been so full of so many brilliant times with my little Helicopter family and so many great opportunites. In fact, 2015 was a fantastic year for me both emotionally and physically. And I put a large part of it down to that post. I think it marked the start of a really exciting chapter in my life.  

I’ll pick up where I left the post in Feb 2015 to explain why I think it had such positive repercussions for me.

As I detailed at the end of the post, the drugs worked. I am still on the 30mg dosage and I am happy to be there. I am lucky because I have never felt like a “zombie” or that my emotions are dampened when I take anti depressants. I know there are lots of people who do feel this way when taking them and I guess that must be a result of different DNA?! I still have huge bursts of happiness, as well as some pretty angry times and even the occasional anxiety riddled day. But this feels normal to me and on the whole I feel fine.

Once I’d published that post, and received such amazing feedback from people (I even had it RTd by Bryony Gordon who told me I was BRILLIANT!) I started to feel more confident about my writing. I plucked up the courage to join Selfish Mother, an online blogazine which features the work some journalists who I admire. I published the post on there and felt even braver when it was received positively. My post is now going be published in PRINT in a book *scream* that Molly Gunn (creator of SM) is producing to help charity Mothers2Mothers.

My new found confidence helped me decide to attend a local blogging event, Blog-On Cymru.  I learnt loads and formed some great new friendships. I got even braver and booked a place at the biggest blogging event of the year, Britmums, before finding out that I was not only nominated but was a finalist in the Family blogger category. To say I was shocked is an understatement. I didn’t win, I didn’t deserve to. At that point I feel like I’d only written a handful of decent posts and my blog was really still in its infancy. But it was yet another boost. I’ve finally found a creative outlet that I makes me feel good about myself. That’s gotta help a girls emotional state, right?!

Since then I’ve decided to concentrate all my spare time on honing my writing. I am giving my writing a Feminist edge because gender identity was something that interested me since Uni. I’ve appeared on local radio giving my (Feminist) opinion about a recent news story and I’ve been accepted to write for an upcoming Feminist blogazine. My goal this year is to write for a printed publication, watch this space!

I’ve realised that I can use the social media skills to help other people who don’t have time/knowledge/inclination to spend all day flogging their business online. This is an area I am exploring further but I am super excited about!

Finally, At Britmums I bumped into a girl I’d met at the local blog event in March. She’d lost weight and looked awesome. I was inspired. She told me about the Slimpod which is a cognitive hypnotherapy download you listen to every night. You have to set goals and interact on the closed Facebook group and start to learn about eating in a different way.

A year on from having a gastric band, I’d not even lost half the weight I wanted to and was in a massive funk about it. Within weeks of listening to the pod every night, I was well on my way to changing how I ate forever. I decided that to help me boost my weight loss I would go back to my counsellor and talk through the reasons behind my food and drink decisions. It was pretty hardcore to begin with. I had to work through a lot of stuff I haven’t thought about for years, there were a tonne of tears and some big truths to face but ultimately it was so worth it. I finally managed to put to bed some ways of thinking that had been completely unhelpful and holding me back. By the end of the summer I had got to a total 4 stone loss. I blog about my weight loss here because I know it’s not that interesting for everyone!

At the same time that all of these things were happening, my home life has been fantastic. Gus and I are no longer at loggerheads over EVERY.LITTLE.THING. He’s still massively defiant and we had a few battles with night tantrums (night terrors manifesting as screaming fits of anger) but we got through it. We just communicate in such a better way now. My anger obviously was having a profound effect on how he responded to me so being able to stay calm(er) in the face of tantrums is infinitely better.

Joni’s turned 2 in October and we all know what a barrel of laughs it is teaching toddlers about “sharing” and “doing what they are told”! But instead of being a mad-faced tyrant at the end of my tether, I mostly just meet her “demands” with firmness and secret laughter at her out and out cheekiness.

My relationship with my husband is also great. He doesn’t have to live with a banshee! The atmosphere in the Helicopter household is so much more harmonious. We have had some great days out together this year, and even a week in a little holiday cottage didn’t drive us all bananas despite the 7 days of constant rain.

The run up to Christmas this year too was so different to 2014. This year I DID feel SO lucky that I was going to be spending my Christmas day with LITTLE kiddies! I loved all the activities we planned and we spent the majority of our Christmas holidays hanging out just the 4 of us and having fun. What a difference. What a massive difference.

I am excited about what the future holds. I am not the same woman who took her angry ass off the doctors last January. I am so glad. And of course, I am still VERY grateful to those drugs. ;) 

Monday, 25 January 2016

Feminism and Makeup - Friend or Foe?

Feminism and Makeup – Friends or Foe?

Vaj lips. 
It’s an oldie but a goodie: should Feminists wear makeup? If you’ve read this then or ever even seen a picture of me you’ll probably have an inkling of my opinion about this. But firstly let’s look at why are / were Feminists so anti makeup? Whilst the first wave of Feminism concerned itself with basic rights of Women in society such as getting the vote, second wave feminists of 60s and 70s began to call for women to reject anything that would subjugate them in the eyes of men. What I mean by this is that Second Wave feminists felt that one of the ways that men controlled women was by creating a society which treated them solely as sexual objects. Makeup is there purely to make a women look like she’s in the throes of wild sex! Black lined eyes= dilated (sexually aroused) pupils! Blusher=flushed sex cheeks, bright red lips= engorged labia. Yes, you are apparently trying to look like a vagina lips with that Mac Ruby Woo!

And men didn’t wear makeup, obsess over their weight, wax or shave their legs etc. but heaven forbid a woman broke free from these shackles! Militant! Ugly, man-hating lesbian! This woman is unlikely to succeed in a culture which rewards beauty (the male construct of beauty of course) and shuns ugliness! Who’s interested in the opinion of a bushy-haired, mono-browed, spotty harridan?! She doesn’t care about her appearance so we don’t care about her opinion, SHOOO ugly woman-beast!

But they’re fickle buggers, those men. Because coincidentally there was a fashion in the 70s for makeup to look “natural” …. With the ironic implication that natural beauty somehow gives you the superior edge to your heavily made up, less fortunate-of-face sisters. “I love my women to be makeup free and natural.” *Eye roll*.

Historically as most of us know, makeup has been around for thousands of years. It was used by both men and women in Ancient Egypt and played an important role in their adornment rituals. In the Georgian era makeup yet again became a tool in society to convey a message used by both men and women using a white powdered-face. This represented the face of the wealthier members of society because they weren’t so exposed to the elements. And they even had colourful patches drawn onto their skin in flower or star shapes to cover scars and pock marks (from the lead paint, no doubt!) So far, so equal. It wasn’t actually until the 20th Century that makeup became an almost exclusively female pursuit when women in the USA and Europe became influenced by the makeup worn by the visiting Russian ballet. And by 1920s Hollywood had commenced its inexhaustible glamourous influence with its kohl lined doe-eyed, silent film starlets. And of course they still hold a key role creating the look that people still try and emulate to this day.

Beauty and appearance are at the forefront of our society. Not many people want to alienate themselves from society in the manner of aforementioned woman-beast. You either really want to make a point and have the supreme self-confidence to back it up or you truly have no fucks to give. And that, I think, is super brave. Because judging people on how they look is so completely endemic that I don’t think we know we are doing it half the time. And it’s true regardless of gender, both men and women judge other men and women constantly.

The way we have been brought up to see each other (women, men, Trans community) is thoroughly entrenched in our psyche. I’ve talked before about the male gaze: men look at women, women think about being looked at. We cannot escape the influence of the society we are born into. And by society I mean, you, me, your mum, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your mates, everyone on TV, the Queen, your neighbour, that ignorant tosser who cut you up in the street earlier, the person who sold your coffee this morning.... EVERYONE!

It is what it is. Whether we like it or not, the standards of beauty that are acceptable in our western culture have been decided before we’re squeezed out of the foof. As soon as we are aware of our place in the world, we become aware of what we look like. What we choose to do with that information however is totally up to us. We can fight against the individual components of the industry that the more conscientious of us object to, like stick thin cat walk models who portray an unattainable/unhealthy body image. E.g. the French government bringing in legislation to ban fashion houses using models with a BMI lower than 18. And no one is saying that there aren’t problematic areas in the Beauty industry which wholly do need to be addressed… unrealistic sizing goals or younger and younger girls being targeted by both in advertising and the products it sells… Frozen themed lip gloss and nail varnish pack for 2 year olds anyone? *shudder*

But lots of women feel empowered by taking care of their appearance. And by extension, wearing makeup makes me feel empowered. Why? Because it makes them feel better about themselves. Why? Because they want to feel like they are presenting the best version of themselves to the outside world. Some people are even brave enough to just come out and say it: because I want to feel attractive. Attractive to who? Men? But then aren’t you just objectifying yourself?! You’re reducing yourself to a mere sexual object to boost your own self esteem! SO WHAT?! I do it EVERY DAY!!!!

When you break it down “wearing makeup for yourself” is still wearing makeup that makes you look as close as you can to your society’s perception of beauty. Unless your version of makeup is akin to Pennywise from It. And if it is, all props to ya and good luck! But it doesn’t matter. Wanting to “fit in” and feel “attractive” is not wrong. It’s a perfectly human response.

Sometimes there are deeper reasons why we want to wear makeup too. Perhaps there are scars which represent some trauma or birth marks or loss of facial hair from treatment. Nobody could accuse a chemo patient of wanting to wear false eye lashes as being vain, could they?!

When I go out in makeup I definitely feel different to when I don’t. I feel like I get treated differently too. This could be one of two things. I could be less confident, I am not comfortable with the way my face looks without makeup. I have skin problems and I am acutely aware that my eyes are too small and close together.... which is enhanced when I am packing weight because those little piggy eyes just get closer together as the fat swells up around them. Hence the massive blobs of black kohl you see splattered on the outer corners of my eyes in every made-up photo...desperately trying to elongate my eyes to the far edges of my large face just to balance out my piggy-eyed “flaw”!

Or it could be that people do actually treat people better depending on how they look. I think it's probably a mix of both. 

What about facial hair? I am extremely hirsute. I have side burns that reach my jaw line, soft but thick downy hair all over my face and bright red, thick hairs that grace my chin and top lip. I shave my face every 4-6 weeks. I have done for years and contrary to popular belief, I have not started getting a 5 o’clock shadow and the hair is as thick as it ever was and no worse. I’ve had several different “permanent” treatments: a course of EPL which luckily I had for free years ago but that should have cost me hundreds. Very lucky in that it did nothing because it works on pigment and my thickest hairs are red...the hardest colour to treat....hooray! I had electrolysis and chemical electrolysis over a period of about a year...again nothing doing. Currently I epilate every few weeks, pluck stray strays every day and spend most evenings picking at my chin. Which is why I have scars and pock marks all over my jawline and a constant acne presence there.... did I mention the rosacea? I’m lush.
4 weeks growth: It took me guts-a-mondo to go out looking like this! Is it cos I is vain?!

But this concern with my appearance, is it vanity or is it lack of confidence? Have I put this pressure on myself after adolescent experiences of rejection and humiliation unfairly blamed on my appearance (and not my loud mouth and sarcastic, caustic tongue?!). Or do I want to look as good as possible because I am manically competitive and must be the most attractive person in the world, the greatest beauty that ever LIVED? Given my fight with weight my whole entire life, I am obviously not THAT competitive.

I do regularly have days where I don’t wear makeup. I didn’t wear makeup for my entire first pregnancy and before that would usually spend my whole week at work with nothing but a smudge of Vaseline on my cracked lips. It actually changed for me after the birth of my first baby. After 9 months of feeling like hell, I wanted to present the very best of myself to the world. And by that, I mean feel pretty. Look good (well, better at least!). I don’t know what the definitive response is. Maybe it’s a bit vanity and a bit confidence. Maybe it’s partly creativity, I have an art degree after all!

I do love makeup though. I gorge on the stuff. I love the way I can change how I look instantly. I am not remotely ashamed. I even considered retraining as a makeup artist. I don’t think it’s silly and vacuous. I know it doesn’t have the slightest baring on my intellect. And with that in mind, I absolutely love this quote about having an interest in makeup from Sali Hughes, brainiac feminist AND beauty editor:

“Nobody looks at men’s hobbies ever and defines men by those hobbies. No one says ‘Paintballing? I bet you don’t know what’s going on in Syria’”.

My conclusion very much is, you can be a feminist and wear makeup. I think it’s helpful to be aware of the origins and significance of makeup in your society but it’s very definitely OK to show your painted mug to the world. I’ll leave you with the very funny Amy Schumer brilliant parody. Laters gators! 

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Why It’s Not OK to Laugh It Off.

This morning I heard the news story about cricketer Chris Gayle being fined £10,000 for asking out sports reporter Mel McLaughlin during a post match TV interview. I’m going to be honest. My first reaction, knowing nothing about the news item other than those facts,  not having seen the footage or heard anyone else’s bias, was “Woah, that seems a bit steep”. That reaction, shared by many, is why I am writing this post.

On further investigation, having watched the footage, I realised how wrong I was. The footage shows a person trying to do her job, on national TV, being reduced to sex object. She asks a serious question about the match and he responds by complimenting on her eyes, telling her “don’t blush baby” and asking her out for a drink. In the background you can hear cackles of laughter from her colleagues in the gallery. She understandably looks extremely uncomfortable and ends the interview abruptly.

The story seems to have divided opinion on social media. Fellow cricketer and former England captain Freddie Flintoff tweeted:

"Well played @Mel_Mclaughlin !! Big fan of @henrygayle but made himself look a bit of a chop there."

Whereas perhaps more predictably, Piers Morgan tweeted:

"I'm absolutely outraged that everyone's so absolutely outraged by @henrygayle being a bit cheeky to a female TV reporter."

Which was then retweeted by Gayle himself.

And therein lies the rub.

The attitude that it’s all “just a bit of fun”. Us girls need to just lighten up because it’s all just “bantz....lolz!”. He was having a LAUGH! He was making a JOKE! But hang on, what was the joke? He JOKINGLY asked her out? Or the joke was that he was asking her out on TV, whilst she was doing her job, in front of millions of people, because that’s funny right?! Wrong.

That’s such a lazy dismissal. It’s lazy and actually it’s dangerous. It’s the reason we don’t live in a gender equal society. If we keep “laughing off” incidents like these, because LADS, EH? Then nothing is ever going to change. It’s this type of latent sexist attitude that holds back progress for women. Whilst we’re still seen as silly little playthings to be complimented and flirted with how on earth are we going to move on? How are we going to reduce the pay gap? How are we going to encourage more women into sports reporting let alone competing?

Gayle responded to the furore by saying it was not supposed to be offensive. How could it not be? You humiliated a woman in her workplace doing her job. It was a complete lack of respect. My default thought during incidents like this is, what would happen if it had been a man? If it had been a male reporter, this wouldn’t have happened. So it shouldn’t have happened just because she was female.

Put another way, if he was in a court of law and the judge was a woman, however much he was attracted to the judge (ooh powerful women are SO sexy!) he wouldn’t have asked her out. He would have RESPECTED her position. Or he would be held in contempt of court. He would be legally bound to respect her.

This incident is not an isolated one obviously. It brought back shuddery memories of the Andy Gray / Richard Keys debacle where Gray was eventually sacked for this exact same attitude: Women are to be played with, fondled! Seconds before going on air! And the image of a sniggering, slimy Richard Keys is forever imprinted on my brain when  he was filmed talking about Louise Redknapp, as if she were actually a piece of meat, discussing how he’d smash “it” and “imagine going round there any night...finding (Jamie) Redknapp hanging out the back of it” IT. Louise became an IT. I feel sick even thinking about it.

Which is ironic given that when I tweeted about it today I was met with a similar response:

It seems there are a lot of people out there who JUST.DON’T.GET.IT. I even came across this ridiculousness earlier. An opinion piece, written by a female “journalist” which starts “Poor Chris Gayle has become the latest sacrificial lamb for social justice warriors.” REALLY?

Come on people! This is the 21st Century! PLEASE can we just stop accepting “banter” where women are the scapegoats as “just a bit of fun”? PLEASE? We will never live in an equal society with respect to and from women and men whilst we keep thinking it’s OK to treat women like sex objects. And that is NOT OK. 

Super Busy MUm