I’ll be your mirror…

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships lately. I’m preoccupied by the dynamics of my own romantic history, but also the societal norms. The things we tell ourselves, the advice we give and believe.

There are tropes I find easy to dismiss. I know you don’t need to love yourself to have others love you. Lots of warm, kind, excellent folk don’t like themselves all the time. Self doubt doesn’t make good qualities any less appealing. Obviously loving yourself is beneficial in countless ways. Whilst you’re working on it, you aren’t exempt from third party estimation.

I’ve never bought into ‘you’ll find them when you’re not looking’ thing. I found a few lovely people by actively looking. They might not have been forever, but they were good experiences. A couple I’ve kept around on a platonic basis. It’s always struck me as daft advice. The exact opposite of the accepted wisdom on goal achievement. We tell each other to put the work in when seeking career advancement, not to buy the first thing we like when making big purchases, practise hard to develop new skills and so on. If every other life enhancement requires careful consideration & applying ourselves why should we leave finding a life partner to chance. Sure, a meet cute is romantic; it’s just not all that realistic for most people. Very few things of value fall into one’s lap. Putting yourself out there appears sensible.

There are many more obviously problematic cliches. I’d love to bin that ‘if you can’t handle me at my worst’ nonsense. It lends itself way too easily to toxic situations. Everything happens for a reason is similarly flawed. You’ll drive yourself crazy with that one. Sometimes life is random & people are fuckwits, you cannot base decisions on chaos. Trust your gut is 50/50, lots of us have less than stellar instincts. Plenty of fish in sea, tonnes of utter garbage too. Love at first sight is usually just desire. We each have more than one soulmate and karma rarely gets involved in romantic entanglements. I’m sure you get my point. I’ve had my share of passion & I’m not buying the prosaic instruction.

If you can’t handle me at my worst, you probably have healthy boundaries in neon lettering

Or am I? I do find myself stuck on some well worn pearls. I can’t completely rid myself of the notion that how we feel about ourselves inform the partners we choose and how they treat us. Nor can I discount, we get the love life we believe we deserve. Perhaps these speak to my own experiences & mental struggles. I can see how that would make sense. I often think of myself as difficult. I’m uncompromising on many points, strident, damaged. I recognise I also have more endearing characteristics. Still, you could summarise most of my amorous affairs as complicated. Kind souls with simpler offerings rarely hold my attention for long. Out & out baddies are likewise swiftly disguarded. I learned early not to let anyone smash my heart to pieces. However, I will absolutely keep coming back if you make a riddle of slowly dismantling the pieces.

I think loving me is laborious, so I choose relationships with challenging dynamics. Can it really be that simple? I know my penchant for the fickle isn’t unique & many other unhelpful patterns exist. Believe me, taking all the blame isn’t a huge leap for me. On the other hand, wouldn’t establishing that as fact encourage the beliefs that started this? Confirming that one’s perceived maladjustment is the cause of failed romance seems to solidify those negative beliefs. That strikes me as sticky little trap.

I feel there has been a shift in the focus of romantic guidance we consume. These seemingly deeper insights are definitely well intended. I think we offer this advice because we want to protect people we care for & we believe it for self preservation. Having control is comforting. Thus it’s tempting to internalise blame. If you’re at fault, you can fix it. I’m just wondering if it all becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. When think we pick the wrong people and we accept the wrong behaviour, don’t we just lower our opinion of ourselves? I worry that just leaves a person open to more manipulation & ill treatment.

We accept the love we think we deserve in black lettering on pink background

It especially gives me pause because I see it most often aimed at women & people with mental health issues. It’s perplexing. On one hand introspection totally makes sense. On the other it plays into really unhealthy existing thought patterns. Basically I’m wondering if in the guise of taking responsibility we’re actually setting ourselves up to fail.

I’m in danger of going full Carrie Bradshaw with all the relationship pondering, but what do you think? Are there any wise (or not so wise) words that have had an impact on you?Carrie Bradshaw from s&tc with text ‘when it comes to life & love, do we accept our worst reviews’

I wanna hold your hand…

Valentine’s Day is rolling up this week. I know it’s a marmite type celebration, but I’ve always liked it. I think it’s nice to devote a day to being a little soppy or sexy or both. Obviously don’t save it all for that one day, but a bit of extra lurve in the depths of winter is no bad thing.

That said I know that not everyone is feeling romantic. Some folk are lonely, some revel in their Singleton status, some eschew the expectation of performing on a certain day. All are absolutely right to feel what they feel. So, I thought I’d offer a range of valentine’s gifts to suit all. Buy them for a lover, a friend, yourself or just because they’re cool.

She’s Angry is one of my favourite insta accounts. I pretty much love everything they create. Their Self healing piece proudly hangs on my bedroom wall. This is another triumph.

She’s angry print. A woman wearing white pants with the words I said what I said across her collar bones

She’s Angry

These stunning creations are high on my wish list. They are the perfect gift for yourself & any gorgeous chick in your life. What could be better than having your self love emblazoned on your arse?

Plus size model wearing lingerie with self brings beauty embroidered on

Felicity Haywood Playful Promises

If you’ve had it with the romance & just want to get physical, make yourself clear with this pendant. I love a bit of crude humour. When juxtaposed with the traditional/delicate I love it even more.

Good love heart pendant with the inscription, less talk more cock

Nouvelle Nouvelle

On a sweeter note there is this cute lamp. If your house is full of love or you’re trying to will it so, this cute neon is a perfect addition.

Desk last lamp with red neon ‘love’ inside large exposed bulb

Not on the High Street

Now back to the bawdy. If you want to add a bit of kink to your life; Spunk Rock is the place for. Whether it’s sexy prints, drag queen portraits or one of a kind commissions, art doesn’t get hotter. I own a few of their pieces & I cannot wait to purchase more.

Spunk Rock

Do you have someone special, but are still feeling a tad pissed off at the world? Why not combine the romantic with the radical. Any politically informed hottie would be delighted to sport this ring.

Gold & silver band rings engraved with fuck the Tories

Fuck the Tories

I shall end on a frothy note. This cute print takes references from The Beatles & Friends. It’s gentle, pretty & the right kind of soppy.

Print of a lobster with the words, I wanna hold your hand

Blank Inside Design

Things that make me go…eeewww

Sometimes the world is bustling with things you love. Other, it keeps thrusting annoyance in one’s path. My current sphere is veering towards the latter.

The hype around the new Ivy Park x Adidas was as big any Beyoncé project gathers. The sizing was more than a little disappointing. It’s frustrating to see someone who gains much aplomb for her nods to body diversity fall down when it comes to her own product lines. Fat folk were, yet again, an afterthought. With small fats squeezing into a later release & everyone else ignored; only girls of a certain size run Bey’s world.

Khloe Kardashian tweet promoting flat tommy shakes

Sticking with the celebrity field (if slightly less A list) is the continued promotion of weight loss crap. Khloe Kardashian springs to mind as a repeat offender. Despite having more money than anyone could ever need, she’s still punting flat tummy shakes to her fans. A huge portion of which are young women & girls. Shame also spreads to homegrown reality celebs. With Lauren Goodger & others agreeing to promote a product containing the fatal ingredient, cyanide. She was caught on camera saying you didn’t have to actually use the products to promote them. None of the influencers involved in the BBC reportage recognised or checked how dangerous the ingredient was. Again, much of base they ‘influence’ are young people. It’s gross that people with a platform are happy to push products that are damaging to mind & body. The greed really does make me go eeeww.

In a less contentious space is the return of some fashion horrors from my youth. Foremost of my objections are hairbands. I really cannot stand those big, thick padded head bands. They conjour two unpleasant 80’s associations; sloanes & teacher’s pet. Both of whom proudly wore those clunky accessories. I’m sorry, they are just not cool.

Black diamanté hair band & red pearl hair band

It will come as no surprise to you that I’m not enjoying current wave of internalised misogyny. Almost nothing is more stomach churning that women shitting on other women. I am aware this is far from a new phenomena, but the relish with which its whipping around it vile. As my more progressive sisters advance an intersectional agenda the less enlightened are pushing back. They’re fighting with mean attacks on real issues like period poverty and trans rights. When I see a privileged woman deploying an I had to suffer once so you can too argument, it makes me nauseous. Turn it up to the full on bigotry of transphobia & I’m boaking. Rich white women need to do better. Much, much better.

Next on the fashion nope radar is another relic from my past. The return of chunky 90’s footwear is not pleasing. I hated spice girl trainers & rubber block heels when I was 15. My opinion has not changed. I loved so much of the 90’s, but these heavy hunks are not amongst them.

And I can’t help loving myself…

Let’s start the year with my annual reminder, shall we? As we head into peak ‘new year, new you’ territory let me assure you that weight loss is not self care or improvement. Decreasing your size will not decrease your problems. Changing your diet will not change your life. You do not have to atone for any Xmas indulgence. Punishing yourself with a diet that won’t work anyway will achieve nothing. Even if you don’t believe that diet culture is harmful to you, believe me when I say it is damaging to the fat people in your life. Every time you talk in disgusted tones about how fat you are you tell us what you really think of our bodies. Trust me, we’re sick of hearing it. This is my body and it is good enough exactly as it is. I am fat and attractive and happy. Whether you agree with me or not doesn’t matter. I’m so much more than flesh & skin anyway. It’s sad & frustrating that people still need to be reminded of this.

Snapshots of a fat body

And a happy new year…

I think it’s fair to say that 2019 has been a shit show. A political nightmare on a global scale. Environmentally disastrous & frankly a genuinely worrying time to be alive. My faith in humanity has taken a battering this year.

It won’t be like this all the time stencilled onto a pavement

It hasn’t been an especially uplifting 12 months on the personal front either. There’s been loss, illness & a struggle for meaning. It has all felt a little pointless at various stages, but I made it. Here I am living & learning. Carrying on.

Woman in bed with teary eyes

The year got off to a heartbreaking start, but there have been ups. I cemented a crucial relationship & extricated myself from one, which in hindsight, I hadn’t wanted to be in for quite a while. My people have proven once again how marvellous they are. Circling around when needed & letting me be when required.

Txt conversation

There have been a few professional triumphs. I returned to public speaking (terrifying), embarked on a little social media consultation & posed for some excellent photographers. I produced writing I am proud of and my expanded audience significantly.

I applied myself to the task of enjoying life. It’s not always easy when dealing with chronic & mental illness; I’m pleased with my progress. My little ones continue to be of endless interest. I have immersed myself in the joy they bring as often as possible. I’ve allowed myself to enjoy time with someone lovely & undemanding. I even had some successful surgery.

Selection of pictures of children

Most importantly (I think), I have released myself from the need to know where I’m going. I always thought my biggest purpose was motherhood & letting go of that dream has been challenging. I felt bereft of meaning. It has taken time & wise counsel to discover that perhaps I don’t need all the answers right now. It’s ok to take some time to breathe & live. Hopefully other options will present themselves. In the meantime I can work on career goals and hopefully continue to squeeze maximum happiness out of life.

Path continued painted cement ground with foot & walking stick

So, it’s true. Life goes on. I suppose that’s as true on a larger scale as it is personally. We can still strive to be the change. Sadly, it looks like there will be lots of opportunities to test the courage of our convictions. I hope we prove ourselves brave.

Mirror image of fat women smiling

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* Photography Credit – Megi Aben

Power to the people…

I’m utterly disgusted at the election results. Beyond that I am saddened & scared. English & Welsh working class voters supporting Tories is incomprehensible. To sell out hungry children, homeless & disabled people for Brexit is vile. The future looks terrifyingly bleak. Our NHS is in real danger & the most vulnerable people in our society are likely to persecuted further. I am grateful for the limited protection being in Scotland offers me. It has never been more clear that we need to be free of this rotten union. My heart goes out to all those who fear what the future brings under another Conservative government. More than ever we have to do what we can for those who will be left in need.

Easy ways to support your fat friends…

I think most people want to be loving & supportive of their friends. Whenever I discuss body positivity (online or in person) most decent straight sized people are mostly in favour of the theory. I’m often congratulated & told it is important to spread the message. I suspect these people would consider themselves supportive of their fat friends.

Whilst I agree that they are well intentioned & aim to be supportive I still hear the same complaints from the fat friends over & over. It can be really hard to address these face to face. So, here is a handy to guide to help thin folk support the fat people in their life. I’m starting with the basics; 5 easy steps that anyone can manage.

Don’t tell me you feel fat.

Fat is not a feeling. When you describe your feelings of inadequacy or unattractiveness as ‘feeling fat’, your opinions on fat are very clear. In addition please don’t complain about how fat you are when you are half my size. What I hear is that you think I am repulsive.

Don’t include me in your diet talk

Diets don’t work. That is scientific fact. Studies show time & again that almost every diet actually results in long term weight gain. I believe that diet talk is toxic. I can’t tell you what to do with your body, but please don’t involve me in it. I don’t want to know how many calories are in my or your meal. Keep your weight goals to yourself. Food has no moral value, you’re not being good when you order a salad. You can follow whatever regime you please without telling me about it.

Don’t expect me to always be ok with trawling around shops that don’t carry my size.

I can’t tell you how many shopping trips I have been on where there was no chance of me buying anything. I’m not even sure that most straight sized people are even aware of this. I’m not saying I’ll never help you pick out a new frock, but please try to be aware that it isn’t all that much fun for me. There are limits to how much time I want to spend sitting in waiting rooms holding your coat.

Don’t laugh at/make fat jokes.

Whether it’s a character in a film or a disparaging comment about that bitch you hate at work when you include their weight it stings. When you find Thor in a fat suit hilarious you’re laughing at my actual body. If you can’t criticise Trump without mentioning his weight you are telling me that him being fat is part of what you dislike about him.

Don’t comment on weight loss/gain

The aim of my body positivity is reach a point where body size is neutral. I would dearly love for my bulk or lack there of to just not matter. With that in mind, please don’t comment on my weight fluctuations. Weight loss is not inherently good. Any changes may be unintentional. They may not even be benign. The size of my person requires no discussion. In the same vein don’t expect me to congratulate or castigate anyone else’s weight change.

I know some readers will be thinking this is all very demanding. No doubt the, we can’t say anything anymore mob, will have lots to say about my suggestions. Remember, though, they are only suggestions. No one can stop you from saying anything you feel you must. I’m simply letting you know that when you do, it hurts. It comes down to respect. The choice is yours.

Blue skinned beast…

I’ve never been a shrinking violet. If I feel strongly about something, you’ll know it. I’m not scared of being noticed or to look different. All of which makes Fuck the Tories one my favourite brands.

Jewellery box with glittery fuck the tories business card

If you haven’t checked them out yet, hop to it. Not only do they make fabulous radical accessories, they also support great causes. It feels like we are living in some kind of alternate political reality at the moment. I rush from disbelief, to rage, to despair on a daily basis. The ascendence of Boris to PM has only made matters worse. So, the new range of Fuck Boris necklaces are a very glittery outlet for my frustrations.

Red glittery fuck Boris necklace in jewellery box

I know wearing a necklace won’t change anything by itself. It does make me feel a little better to express my disgust and connect with like minded people. I will continue to do everything else in my power to affect change. I hope you will too. Protest, contact your MP, sign the petitions, vote! In the mean time you can enjoy the satisfaction of supporting an amazing small business & voicing your opinionated loud and clear.

It’s a me, myself kinda attitude…

Self care is a phrase that makes me boak. It has so many bullshit connotations that I just can’t be doing with. I’m not interested in the healing powers of green tea, crystals or turmeric. A cup of tea and a chat won’t fix my crazy head. Neither will congratulating myself for brushing my teeth. If any of that works for, knock yourself out, I’m genuinely happy for you. It all just leaves me with a bad taste (literally in some cases) in my mouth. However, I do believe that you have look after yourself. It’s important to pay attention to the little things that make a difference to your day/life. And every now and again you have to go BIG.

Hotel do not disturb sign

That’s exactly what I did last week. I’ve been walking the tightrope of mental & physical health flares. I’m tired, I’m sore, I’m sad and with the arrival of my 39th birthday I’m old too. I was in need of a treat. So, I gave myself a 5 star escape.

I booked a couple of nights at a boutique hotel in my city. Checked into my beautiful room and checked out of reality for a few days. I told no one. I drank champagne cocktails in the epic roll top bath. Ordered room service and watched old movies in the gigantic bed.

Hotel room with roll top bath Grand staircase and stained glass window, dining room with chandelier and champagne cocktail

It did me good to dip out of my real life. It hasn’t solved any of my problems, but man alive was it good to have some respite. It also felt really amazing to be able to do a lovely thing for myself. It’s great to be treated by others, but there is a deep satisfaction in giving yourself something you need.

ly looking in mirror in white hotel robe, ly soaking in roll top bath

My advice would be less ‘self care’ and more taking care of yourself.

It’s later than you think…

I think it’s universally acknowledged that getting older is a wee bit scary. As one approaches those big milestone ages it is hard not to ponder the big questions. 39 is frightening mainly because of its proximity to 40 & all that entails.

I remember being worried in the run up to the big 30 too. Mainly because I felt like I wasn’t where I had imagined I would be at that stage of my life. That little measure of fear probably helped in the long run. It helped me make some needed changes. My thirties have been far happier than the preceding years. I believe what made that possible was time. I had time to think and plan and manoeuvre.

Ultimately, though, I’m approaching 40 still missing the crucial piece of my puzzle. However, this time I am very nearly out of time. My options are ever shrinking. That is frightening on a whole other level.

I sometimes feel like the proverbial guilty feminist when I have this conversation. Fear of ageing is often assumed to be about vanity. It’s thought silly to worry about grey hairs or crows feet. It’s assumed the desire to stay young is about adherence to sexist beauty standards. Or if it runs deeper the biological clock is referenced in demeaning tones. Ageing childless and/or single women are often perceived as desperate or pathetic. I suspect much of this is internalised, but I had to get these messages somewhere!

Balloon with sorry about my internalised misogyny

Where am I going with this? I suppose I just want to say it is ok. Things become a cliche for a reason. Ageing is scary. Whether that is because you are worried about physical changes, not achieving goals, your own mortality or a all of the above. It’s ok. Most folk struggle a little with change. It’s perfectly understandable to feel uncomfortable with the alterations you see on the mirror. It’s fine to be concerned about the irrevocable biological changes that age brings. Knowing that some opportunities have passed you by can be hard to accept. The unstoppable nature of the passage of time can be alarming.

In many ways age is just a number. Nevertheless, ageing does have concrete ramifications. It isn’t anti feminist to accept or care about them. A big part of the significance of our appearances is routed in living in a patriarchal society. It isn’t merely a shallow obsession with attractiveness; women’s ageing is not as viewed sympathetically. There are real life implications beyond aesthetics. Career prospects, financial considerations, medical and fertility issues are a big deal. Even if you just really lovely your hair and don’t want it to go grey, you’re allowed to have a wobble about that.

ly looking in mirror sign towel around body and hair

In the end the thing that makes it so worrisome is also what helps me deal with it. You can’t stop time. It is entirely out with our control. Feel whatever feel. Talk it out. Then carry right on living because it always later than you think.