November favourites

Don’t even talk to me about where 2018 went. Somehow, it is time for some November favourites.

This month I turned 26. I also lost my job. Swings and roundabouts, I guess?

(If you know anybody UK-based hiring for an editorial assistant/feature writer please hit me up. I lost my position because of budget cuts. I’m actually really good at my job. That’s what makes this whole situation so. Fucking. Upsetting.)

Despite the epic low point that is my life right now, I have some very fun stuff coming up in the form of a couple of trips away (booked when I still had a job, OBVIOUSLY. But mostly already paid for, so that’s something, right? Right? …Right?) One to Edinburgh to see the Christmas market and the giant pandas and another to Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare to see… A Christmas Carol.

Both beautiful and two of my favourite places in the world AND great distractions from the gigantic question mark that now hangs over my future.

(Be thankful I skipped blogging last week. If this seems bleak, you shoulda tried talking to me then. Except you could not have, because I was in my bed of despair, not sleeping because worry)

A selection of if-my-heart-doesn’t-seem-in-it-that’s-because-it’s-not favourites:

Oatly Oat Drink Barista Edition

oatlyI switched away from dairy milk a couple years ago in an effort to be more environmentally friendly (I’m not vegan, but I figure plant milk on my cereal gives me free reign to eat as much cheese as I want to come the weekend with minimal guilt) and have been an almond milk convert for a while now. Recently however (I’ll be honest, because of The Good Place) I learned that almond milk really isn’t all that great for the environment itself, so I have switched again to oat milk. Specifically Oatly’s Barista Edition and it is a Game Changer. It is 100% creamy goodness that I am so far enjoying far more than I ever liked almond milk. Or regular milk, honestly. It’s amazing in coffee, great in tea and really delicious over your Cheerios – the first plant milk I have felt is tasty in all three.

To read:

This heart breaking, soul crushing Bryan Mealer piece in The Guardian about the so called ‘immigrant caravan’ heading toward the US across Central America. It is a compassionate, frustrating and painful account of humanity fighting for survival and to have their personhood recognised in a vicious, self-centred media environment. The US doesn’t want to share resources and these people don’t want to die. No one who reads this could possibly be unaffected but I’ll warn you that if you love anybody with a disability or have been in a caring role at any point in your life reading this is going to really hurt, but you should read it anyway.

To Watch: Beyond Bullied

This sweet but, again, pretty heart breaking Soul Pancake series sees epic future adult, Kheris Rogers, who was bullied at school for her dark skin talk to other young people who have gone through bullying about how they came out stronger. Kheris is such a sweet, compassionate little kid and an enigmatic host of this interview series all about compassion winning over ignorance and hate. Some of the episodes are difficult (this one in particular. When I heard this girl’s story I wanted to go to bed forever because what the actual fuck), but they are ultimately uplifting and sweet and a reminder that there is still decency in the world despite OVERWHELMING evidence to the contrary.

That’s about all of the favourite I can muster right now.

Onwards and upwards. Hopefully.

Advertisements

26

I turned 26 on Friday.

It’s been a funny weekend. I’ve had a lovely time with my family and friends celebrating against a backdrop of a lot of important things in my life being totally up in the air – and all the anxiety that comes with that. A couple of people have asked me what I want out of the next year, but I’m at this strange moment where I can’t really make any decisions. Whatever is going to happen will happen, and when it does I have to figure out what to do next.

I do not handle limbo well.

So this morning, as I woke up and once again confronted the anxiety that is ever-present as I go through this odd in-between time, I decided to make a list of things I do know – some of the knowledge I have accumulated during my 26 years.

1 Balance is hard to find and very easy to lose

2 But that’s okay, you always have the option to course-correct

3 Have tampons, always. Even if you don’t wind up needing them you might save someone else’s day

4 Learned behaviours are fucking hard to put down when they stop serving you, but acknowledgement is the first step

5 You are on your own timeline. Yes, this can mean you get to things a little slower than everyone else, but you always get there in the end

6 Hiding at home instead of going out with your friends is rarely the right decision

7  Do the best you can with what you have. Be as environmentally friendly as you can, shop as ethically as you are able and eat as healthily as possible, etc. You get it

8 Talking about all of the things you hate about your body is a conversation that only leads down

9 You’re okay by yourself. Letting other people join you is the part you have to work on

10 Not everyone is out to get you

11 Letting go is hard. Holding onto anger is probably harder in the long run

12 Having angry, one-sided conversations with people in your head leads nowhere

13 This behaviour also leads nowhere

14 When heading out onto the moors, always take one more layer than you think you’ll need (this is a bit specific to where I live but I think the point stands)

15 Always wear sunscreen

16 Always take off your make up at the end of the night

17 Bring snacks – you’re never going to regret it

18 There will be long stretches of time when you feel like a garbage person living in a garbage world with a garbage future. As much as it feels like forever at the time, this feeling will pass. You can survive it

19 Sometimes you will feel so panicked about something you have to do that you’ll become convinced you’re going to die. So far you haven’t, so odds are you probably won’t

20 Always be more patient than you feel

21 The people who failed you made you a resourceful person, and there is beauty in that. Even when it doesn’t feel like it

22 When someone tells you who they are, believe them

23 Parents are humans too

24 It isn’t your responsibility to fix everything

25 Some things can’t be fixed

26 Most lessons you have to learn over and over again

October favourites

So that’s October over and done with.

How was your month? Mine wasn’t too shabby. I have managed to regain some semblance of a blogging routine (look at all. These. POSTS!). I caught the local leg of Dylan Moran’s tour and he was funny and exactly what my heart needed. I also started exercising again after months of putting it off for no particular reason, and, as I knew would happen, my body and mind are feeling better for it.

So without further ado, shall we get to some favourites?

(I barely remember how to do this it’s been so long!)

Watching: Jigsaw (Netflix)

Daniel Sloss

Daniel Sloss’s stand up special Jigsaw is an absolute MUST. A show about relationships, break ups and the unnatural shapes into which we attempt to bend for the benefit of others, it is necessary viewing.

Do yourself a favour and just watch it. Especially if you happen to be in a relationship you’re feeling unsure about. It will blow your mind.

Reading: The Guardian Long Reads

As our attention spans shrink and the field of journalism is gradually degraded into nothing, there is a slow but steady backlash happening against short, poorly reported articles and so called “long reads” are experiencing something of a renaissance. Contrary to what you might think, in SEO terms, Google actually prioritises articles that are more than 1500 words – all the better to combat fake news (in theory).

Enter The Guardian’s Long Reads, an ever evolving collection of essays, profiles and in depth reporting providing the sort of nuanced, contextualised stories that mostly died out years ago.

I love it.

Yes, it will take up most of your lunch break but it is almost always worth it.

A good starting point: Tommy Robinson and the Far Right’s New Playbook by Daniel Trilling.

Listening: Wolverine: The Long Night

wolverine the long night

I am getting somewhat sick of the amount of Marvel content available these days, but I have to say their new Wolverine podcast is REALLY good. One of the most atmospheric scripted serials out there, it details the experiences of Agents Pierce and Marshall after they arrive in Burns, Alaska to investigate a horrific massacre on a fishing boat.

Potential listeners should note there is a lot of hunting and animal death in this show.

Watching: Daredevil season 3 (Netflix)

daredevil

HOW GOOD WAS DAREDEVIL SEASON 3?! Fisk was back on terrifying form and every time Dex/Bullseye was on screen I had a small heart attack (the horrific buzzing sound that followed him whenever he was feeling particularly unstable was truly chilling and incredibly effective). I have been a huge fan of Karen Page ever since she shot Westley, so finally seeing her get her dues – and Deborah Ann Woll the opportunity to showcase how great of an actress she really is – was thrilling. Though I think that scene in the church may actually have shortened my life by several days. The stress.

Matt finally finding his way back to his friends was a necessary development – the ‘lone wolf’ storyline was getting old and, let’s face it, Foggy and Karen make him bearable.

I’m still very saddened by the loss of Luke Cage – and Iron Fist actually. Season 2 was so much better than season 1! – but I’m really happy to see Daredevil back on form.

What have you been reading/watching/listening to this month? I’d love to hear about it!

Losing It

Twenty-six year old Julia Greenfield has long suspected everyone is having fun without her. It’s not that she’s unhappy, per se. It’s just that she’s not exactly happy, either. She hasn’t done anything spontaneous since about 2003. Shouldn’t she be running a start up? Going backpacking? Exploring unchartered erogenous zones with inappropriate men?

Somewhere between her mother’s latent sexual awakening and her spinster aunt’s odd behaviour, Julia finally snaps. It’s time to take some risks, and get a lift. After all – what has she got to lose?

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Losing It by Emma Rathbone is the story of a 26-year-old virgin determined to lose it this summer that, I think, from its marketing and strapline (“life is what happens when you lose control”) was supposed to be an empowering tale of self-determination that for me, at least, sorely missed the mark.

Julia spends approximately 99% of her time thinking about her virginity. If you think this wouldn’t be particularly interesting to read, you would be right.

Fact is, virginity is really only one aspect of Julia’s life that hasn’t gone according to plan. Once destined to become an Olympic swimmer, her life took a nose dive when she realised she wasn’t good enough and hasn’t really recovered since. Stuck with friends she doesn’t like, in a job she hates (though it is worth mentioning I didn’t see Julia do any work throughout this entire book. She did do a lot of sitting at her desk thinking about being a virgin. It is a theme with her. Oftentimes I wanted to shake her and be like ‘maybe someone would do you if you were more interesting, Julia’, but, truth is, lack of personality is not a barrier for most people so it doesn’t seem like a valid argument. Basically what I am getting at is this: Julia is the worst), one day, overwhelmed by her accidental virginity, she decides to quit her job and move back in with her parents (how she thought this would help the situation is unclear), but her parents are going on a holiday to try and save their marriage (the ‘mother’s latent sexual awakening’ mentioned in the blurb), so they tell her to go and live with her plate-painting, drowning dog-saving, eccentric old aunt Viv.

Guess what.

Aunt Viv is also a virgin.

And not only is Aunt Viv a virgin, but she is a weird, lonely liar who tells people she’s lived in spiritual getaways in Bali or someplace when in reality she’s never travelled much further than North America – and she hasn’t even seen most of that. And she is, for some reason, totally incapable of having a normal conversation. She is the human embodiment of Julia’s nightmare for herself, the confirmation of all her worst fears – that there is something wrong with her, that she has diverged from the path too far to ever self-correct (her words, not mine), that she is capital D DOOMED.

Cue, from me, the longest sigh in the world. Whether your house was made of straw or sticks I blew that sucker down.

What bothered me so deeply about this book is that virginity, for these women, was conflated with personal failure, that it was only in having sex they might achieve legitimacy in the eyes of others and themselves. For me, this made for deeply uncomfortable reading and was an idea I kept waiting for Rathbone to challenge… but she never did. There was no real exploration of why these women had never had sex (despite Julia’s endless pondering on the subject she fails to draw one interesting conclusion throughout the entire novel), what their exact hang ups were and in Viv’s case whether a sex life was something she even wanted. We only ever saw her as Julia did – a shell of a crazy cat lady whose life had never really gotten off the ground, but from the hints of friendships and an art career Rathbone introduced but never explored it’s evident that can’t possibly be true. It’s shoddy characterization, does a disservice to Viv and struck me as really quite harmful to anyone on the aro/ace spectrum.

Aside from being varying degrees of offensive, Losing It is also very predictable (spoilers to follow if you plan on picking up this book, though I would recommend you spend your time doing literally anything else). Once she’s kissed a few frogs and caused total destruction in Aunt Viv’s life with her single minded need for the peen, after Julia calms down and let’s go of her desperation she winds up losing her v-card to a cute guy from her office she initially thought was married but it turns out isn’t and realises, as most do after their first consensual sex, that it isn’t such a big deal after all.

Short pause while we all slow clap for Julia.

I suppose if I’m being very generous there is comfort to be found in this book for anxious virgins that odds are, if you want it to, sex will happen. As Julia proves, even if you are the literal worst, someone, somewhere, will eventually want to fuck you.

7 pieces of advice from Tiny Beautiful Things that shape my life

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Someone Who’s Been There by Cheryl Strayed is one of my absolute favourite books. A compilation of the advice she gave during her time as the anonymous advice columnist, Sugar at The Rumpus (now defunct), Strayed, with her perfect combination of wit, wisdom, compassion and no-fucks-given attitude created an advice column like no other. Sugar is nurturing but tough, ever so giving but concrete when it comes to her boundaries. She will get down in the dirt with you when necessary, but more often than not, instead gently points you in the direction of the answer you already knew in your heart when you were writing to her.

Processed with VSCO with m3 preset

From the gay kid stuck living with his evangelical parents to the woman still in mourning for her miscarried baby over a year later, you will find yourself in these pages. I’ve written about this book before, but in the same way I have recently come back to it in my own reading, I wanted to come back to it here. My copy of this book is littered with underlining and folded down page corners; wisdom I knew I would want to come back to – do come back to – in moments of difficulty. Today I figured I would share some of it here.

“Go! Go! Go! You need it one more time darling? GO. Really. Truly. As soon as you can. Of this I am absolutely sure: Do not reach the era of child-rearing and real jobs with a guitar case full of crushing regret for all the things you wished you’d done in your youth. I know too many people who didn’t do those things. They all ended up mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions of the people they intended to be.”

“Be about ten times more magnanimous than you believe yourself capable of being. Your life will be a hundred times better for it. This is good advice for anyone at any age, but particularly for those in their twenties. Because in your twenties you’re becoming who you’re going to be and so you might as well not be an asshole.”

“Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit?”

Useless days

“Love her even if she doesn’t do what you hope she does once you point out that her paramour is a scumbag. Wish her the best without getting yourself emotionally tangled up in a situation that has nothing to do with you.”

“No is golden. No is the kind of power the good witch wields. It’s the way whole, healthy, emotionally evolved people manage to have relationships with jackasses while limiting the amount of jackass in their lives.”

You’re going to be all right. And you’re going to be all right not because you majored in English or didn’t and not because you plan to apply to law school or don’t, but because all right is almost always where we land, even if we fuck up entirely along the way.”

August favourites

I’m not going to lie, August has not been a fun one for me. From career set backs (or, as my friends are determinedly rebranding it: new opportunities) to a sudden family crisis (all turned out fine) to a horrific stomach bug that took me down for days, I have spent a disproportionate amount of August feeling sorry for myself and not much like reading — or writing about it.

But, despite the repeat plunge into the unknown I’m going through right now and the big change coming up that, unfortunately, is very much not a change I wanted, for the past few days I’ve been feeling unusually optimistic. It’s been a hard couple weeks; hard enough that, for once, I’ve sort of let myself off the hook. I have a very loud, negative, naval gazing interior monologue that I pretty much leave to chunter away unimpeded to call me a piece of shit regardless of whether I’m doing something helpful or nothing at all. But the past couple weeks as I’ve struggled to meet work deadlines around hospital visits (like I said, everything is really fine now) I sort of realised the time had come where I needed to be on my own side a little bit. Like, life is hard enough without me making it even harder for myself, you know?

So that was a realisation I’m trying to carry forward as I plan the next stage of my life, a process that will also include the need for me to cheer for my own team of one. I bring this up because I feel like that’s important for everyone — be on your own team a little bit. It helps.

Anyway, as this is a officially a monthly favourites post, here are a few:

Reading: Elle September issue

slick-woods-elle-ukI haven’t written about it much on here, but I care very much about trying to be more ethical and environmentally sustainable in my buying, particularly when it comes to clothes. After I watched The True Cost documentary a couple years ago I knew I couldn’t go on buying in the way that I had done before, so ever since I’ve been gradually searching out shops that care about the environment and the people producing their stock as much as I do. This issue of Elle was entirely dedicated to just that and I had a really fun time reading it — there was little in there I didn’t already know, but it makes me happy to see ethical clothing lines getting the credit they deserve.

If you want to know more about making ethical buying choices I would recommend either watching The True Cost (it’s on Netflix) or reading Slow Fashion by Safia Minney, founder of People Tree.

Listening: My Dad Wrote A Porno

220px-My_Dad_Wrote_a_Porno_logoYes, you read that right. In this podcast Jamie Morton and his friends James Cooper and Alice Levine perform a dramatic reading of Jamie’s dad’s self published erotica series Belinda Blinked — the least sexy, most anatomically confusing porno book you’ve ever heard. Would recommend headphones.

 

 

Watching: Luke Cage

luke cage

I am yet to watch the last episode because I’m horrible at finishing things (also I need to watch it during the day because I have a feeling it’ll be stressful enough that I won’t be able to sleep after and haven’t yet had the opportunity) but I have loved this season. Season one, I was in two minds about — I enjoyed the beginning but lost interested a bit after Mahershala’s surprising early exit, then came back around again for the last few episodes. But this season — with the exception of the Danny Rand episode — has kept me gripped throughout. I love the way Marvel’s Netflix shows complicate villains so authentically. They are both super evil but I am actively dreading the inevitable demises of Bushmaster and Shades (please don’t spoil me) — that’s another reason why I am yet to watch the finale.

How was your August? Any faves I should know about?

 

No One Tells You This

If the story doesn’t end with marriage and a child, what then?

This question plagued Glynnis MacNicol on the eve of her fortieth birthday. Despite a successful career as a writer, and an exciting life in New York City, Glynnis was constantly reminded she had neither of the things the world expected of a woman her age: a partner or a baby. She knew she was supposed to feel bad about this. After all, single women and those without children are often seen as objects of pity, relegated to the sidelines, or indulgent spoiled creatures who think only of themselves. 

Glynnis refused to be cast in either of those roles and yet the question remained: What now? There was no good blueprint for how to be a woman alone in the world. She concluded it was time to create one.

20180817_155923[1]

I have been really into non-fiction lately. In this seemingly endless slump of mine only it and the occasional thriller seem to be holding my attention – and keeping me awake on the train. When Ann Friedman interviewed Glynnis MacNicol about her new memoir, No One Tells You This for the summer reading episode of Call Your Girlfriend, barely five minutes into the interview I knew I needed to get my hands on this book, hardback be damned. One fortunately timed Amazon voucher later, and Glynnis’ memoir – which has an enviablely stylish cover for its genre, btw – was in my greedy hands.

In this honest, emotional and ultimately inspirational read, Glynnis MacNicol takes us along with her on her fortieth year – months of inner conflict (husband? Baby? Should she? Does she want? What does it mean if she doesn’t?), travel, empowerment and grief as she deals with her mother’s rapid decline in health after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. In this gorgeously written memoir, Glynnis dives deep into the minutiae of her life as a single, childless woman in a society still stuck on both as measures of female success and happiness – which, don’t get me wrong, for some people they totally are. But it’s not for everyone.

“Being alone sometimes felt like a solitary tree atop a very windy hill; there was nothing between the world and me to break its impact. I had to root myself very deeply in my belief about what was good about my life so as not to be tossed to and fro.”

This book is essentially about how societal expectations fuck with us all. Despite a life in which she is pretty much successful, fairly happy and financially stable (with the occasional hiccup), Glynnis still can’t help but but feel like she has done her life, somehow, wrong. Her friend’s mothers often reassure her at parties that there’s “still time” – for husbands. Even for babies, at a push – and when she meets a man even slightly promising finds herself calculating how long it might take them to get married and pregnant. It’s not until she’s 40, the societally agreed age at which women cease to be relevant (lol), that she starts to really interrogate these notions, and to ask whether these calculations add up to anything she actually wants. 

When she really thinks about it, she finds that husbands and babies were something she assumed would be the endgame of her life through constant conditioning rather than any real desire. In one of my favourite passages in the book she goes to stay with her younger sister to help her look after her new baby. Every night Glynnis sits with her newborn nephew in her arms and forces herself to confront the question of whether or not she wants children, whether or not she’ll regret not having them. She finds she doesn’t, and as for regret – well, there’s a risk of that in everything.

What felt so deeply authentic to me in this book was that for every moment of empowerment Glynnis felt, she experienced equal boughts of insecurity. Scrolling through her Instagram feed looking at her friends snapshots of life with their husbands and babies that familiar pull of do I? Should I? resurfaces. But then, away from The Feed she knows those lives have as many complications and frustrations of their own. Even her friends in good marriages spend a lot of their time wondering if their life might be better had they made different choices – so really, their situation is not at all different from Glynnis’ own. She differs in having the burden of moving forward in on a path without a recognisable blueprint, where often strangers will perceive her life choices as a threat to their own.

No One Tells You This shows all of the wonderful progress in attitudes towards women, but also all the garbage we still carry around. Oftentimes it seems the main sources of Glynnis’ insecurity are external, whether that be the random acquaintance questioning her choices, the barrage of images of love and romance as the Ultimate Goal that suffocate our culture, and, of course, The Feed, which invites us to create stories about people’s lives that very rarely have much in common with the truth. It’s crazy that forging a path as an adult woman choosing to be alone is a revolutionary act, but it still is. And in writing about it, Glynnis MacNicol has create a revolutionary book.

No One Tells You This is a beautiful book about fighting for yourself, believing in your decisions and creating a life that is truly your own. It’s a vital to read for everyone, regardless of your relationship status. It isn’t a book about being alone so much as, actually, a book about being yourself.