Social consciousness

As much as I like to think I’m a modern girl, I do have a fair few old-fashioned values that might not sit well with your average 21st century forward-thinking mid-twenties Londoner.  I wouldn’t consider having children unless I was married, I firmly believe in the importance of good manners, and I feel that certain rules of social etiquette should be adhered to at all times.

Social etiquette – what’s that?  Well, to me at least, it’s the standards by which we should behave in public so as not to unduly offend others.  This might seem a rather alien concept to people who claim to not care about what other people think, but if you spend as much time as I do on the Tube, on buses, in bars, at restaurants, and any number of places where you have to be in close proximity with other members of the general public, the complete lack of social etiquette is fairly gobsmacking.

The London Underground is perhaps where this is most prevalent.  There we all are, poor sods having to commute every day, none of us enjoy it, but we all have to do it.  Quite often there’s a sense of camaraderie about the whole thing: a shared rolling-of-eyes at delays, a collective tutting at the idiot who’s got his leg stuck in the door…  So WHY are there people who completely disregard this and act as if they’re not stuffed into a tin can with hundreds of other humans?  Case in point: The Hair Brusher.  This wasn’t just a quick taming of unruly locks that took about 3 seconds.  Oh no.  This girl was going to town with a Tangle Teezer on her abundantly scruffy thick wet hair.  She was standing up, meaning that those of us sitting down near her got showered with a lovely mix of water and split ends.  And of course after this 5-minute grooming session was over, she picked all the hair from her brush and dropped it on the floor.  Nice.

Then there are the nose-pickers, the fingernail biters, the hot smelly food eaters, and the let-me-adjust-my-belt-and-general-crotch-area-right-in-front-of-your-face-ers.  I’ve seen girls squeezing their spots in a packed carriage at 8am, and a suited and booted man floss his teeth whilst using the window as a mirror.  Ok, if you really don’t give a damn about what other people think of you, then you’re probably not the type to be jealously poring over Facebook and Instagram and wishing you had aspects of other people’s lives, and maybe you’re a happier person overall.  Yay for you.  But for crying out loud why can’t these people see that their habits are truly disgusting and make other people feel quite ill?  I certainly wasn’t the only one giving the Hair Brusher death glares by the end of the battle with her bed head.

I can predict a response to this: ‘it’s a free country, I can do what I like’.  Fine.  In which case, you won’t mind if I gather up all the hair you’ve just shed all over my lap and pop it in your handbag, or attack your fingertips with a bottle of Stop N’ Grow.  After all, it’s a free country.  I can do what I like…

The old adage ‘good manners don’t cost a thing’ has never been more pertinent.  I can’t be the only one whose mother issued edicts such as ‘never eat whilst walking’ and ‘always cover your mouth when yawning’.  Perhaps my attitude towards social etiquette is a little dated, but that doesn’t make it wrong.  Why should advances in technology and social mobility reduce the need for good manners and personal hygiene?  Aren’t politeness and consideration of others two of the things that make us a civilised nation?  I’m well aware that I sound like the Dowager Countess, but I’d much rather that comparison than that of, say, Josie Cunningham or Dappy.  Being aware of your surroundings and those who are in it isn’t old-fashioned: it should be second nature.

manners

Teenage dreams

For those of you that don’t know, over the last few months I’ve become a bit of a running enthusiast.  With two 10k races coming up this summer, training is well under way, and part of this training is running the 9.5k journey home from work once a week.  It’s a well-established fact that when you run home from work, a backpack is required (purse, keys, oyster card, clothes etc.), and this week mine decided to chafe.  I mean, really chafe.  I now have symmetrical marks on each side of my neck that look a lot (aka exactly) like hickeys.  Fan-bloody-tastic.

hickey

Ah hickeys, those symbols of teenagerdom and fleeting romance.  That internal struggle between wanting to cover them up but yet wanting everyone to know that you’ve got one.  That glee you got from pointing out a hickey on a friend’s neck, squealing ‘who gave you THAT??’ in carrying tones.  A hickey was part badge of honour, part rite of passage.  And also part ‘ewww why did you let a guy bite you?’

In a weird way, my present non-hickey has made me slightly nostalgic for the real hickeys of my youth.  Or rather, the simplicity of relationships back then.  In my little boarding school bubble, everything was remarkably easy.  You snogged a boy, you established that you liked one another, and hey presto you were boyfriend and girlfriend.  Simples!  There was none of this faffing about for months ‘seeing each other’ and then a really painful conversation along the lines of ‘where is this going?’  You’d always know if your boyfriend cheated on you because the whole school would know before you.  Hell, half of my year knew I was going out with a guy before I had even been consulted.  You knew a guy’s history before you’d had his tongue shoved down your throat (the annual ‘pulling tree’ drawn out by bored girls was a real help here), you saw each other every day, and when the ultra-meaningful three-week relationship came to an end (he kissed someone else/you got bored/he wouldn’t respect your lack of desire to give him a handjob) all you needed was a Bacardi Breezer-fuelled school disco to find your next snog sensation.

Of course, it was all terribly complicated and traumatic and dramatic at the time.  The teenage years were littered with tears, fumbled attempts at ‘going all the way’, and year groups divided over whose side to choose in a break-up.  There are certainly parts of it I don’t miss: where would we be if every drunk mashing of faces turned into a relationship?  And thank heavens we aren’t forced to encounter the object of our (somewhat misguided) affections on a daily basis.  Then there’s the gossip, the rumours, everyone knowing more about your relationship than you do yourself…  Although having said that, some work environments can bear a striking resemblance to school in certain aspects.

Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the 17-year-old me.  The girl who didn’t think that 90% of men are bastards, and who wasn’t going on endless disappointing dates.  Sure, I had my fair share of teenage angst, but that was child’s play compared to what the last eight years have thrown at me.  I distinctly remember one house party where I literally ran screaming out of a tent when my ‘boyfriend’ started to unzip his jeans and guide my hand to the terrifying thing that lay beneath.  At the time I was mortified, but now I’m proud of Teenage Me for not doing something she didn’t want to do.  You go girl!

Doing a one-nighter

There are many girls out there for whom a one-night stand is an unthinkable thing.  Sex with someone you’ve only just met?  No thanks.  Getting down and dirty with someone you barely know?  No way.

Now, I will freely admit that I have had a few one-night stands.  And to clarify: my definition of a ONS is having sex with someone you hadn’t met before that day and most probably won’t see again.  I’m not proud of it, but neither am I ashamed.  For those of us who don’t attach emotions to sex, and who can go into the act with open eyes and a knowledge that it will be a purely physical encounter, one-night stands are hardly taboo.  But there are many out there who would never consider doing at, and judge those who do.

I’m well aware that a large number of people, both men and women, would have a whole host of adjectives to hand when it comes to describing me and my fellow one-night standers.  ‘Slut’, ‘easy’ and ‘just asking for an STI’ are a few choice phrases that come to mind.  Put the shoe on the other foot, and we could come back with ‘frigid’, ‘prude’ and ‘delusional’.  Tomato tomahto…  Sex and how we approach it, as with most things, is a personal preference.

We live in an era where sexual liberation and equality are becoming more and more prevalent.  Free contraception is on offer to make recreational sex a safe and enjoyable thing.  So why do people still have a problem with one-night stands?  Is it the fact that we’re more open about it?  If it’s OK for guys to do it and talk about it, shouldn’t that be the same for girls?  Does sleeping with someone you’ve never met before make you a morally corrupt person?

Clearly there are different grades of sexual expression going on around us.  If you think of it as a scale with those who are saving themselves for marriage at the bottom and those who make one-night stands a weekly occurrence at the top, most people will find themselves in the vast grey area in between.  Just as a dogmatic Catholic might look at my behaviour with horror, I can be equally shocked by someone who sleeps with a different person every week.  Like I said, personal preferences…

So, you could say that the taboo of the one-night stand is purely relative.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although I will say that some are more extreme than others.  Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the occasional (read: once or twice a year) one-nighter, so long as safe sex is practised and both people involved are fully aware that it will only ever be just that: a one-nighter (there are plenty more caveats such as make sure he’s not married/has a girlfriend and don’t do it if you’re a fragile kind of person but then we’d be here all day).  It’s my body, my life, my decision.  I am also of the opinion that sleeping with someone you know and trust and care about is generally a lot better than with someone you only know by their first name.  But that’s not to say that a night of no-holds-barred sex can’t be just as physically fulfilling.  After all, sex is enjoyable (at least, most of the time) and can be great and leave you with an incredible glow and a feeling of physical satisfaction, so why should people in relationships have all the fun?

ONS3

Nostalgic and romantic…?

Oh goody, it’s that time of year again.  Everywhere I look there are pink hearts flowing out of every shop window and TV advert, all of those style/beauty websites I subscribe to are sending me ideas for the ‘perfect Valentines nails’ and ‘gift ideas for him’, and once again, for the sixth year in a row (sob), I find myself alone and not even a hope of a card softly dropping onto my doormat on February 14th.

BUT, this year I thought I’d try to avoid my annual rant about the awful commercialism and contrived nature of Valentines Day.  I thought I’d try to squash down the barely-concealed feelings of bitterness and jealousy that usually rise up to the surface at this time of year.  I could harp on about how I couldn’t think of anything worse than going to a restaurant full of loads of other couples all trying to be super-romantic where everyone looks like they feel they should be on the verge of proposing.  I could analyse how most girls will claim to hate V-Day and yet will throw a strop if their boyfriend takes this at face value and doesn’t even buy a card.  But no, this year I’m breaking the mould.

In a bid to have a more positive outlook on love and life as a whole (and yes this might be in part a result of being pegged as an ‘angry single girl who seems to hate everyone in relationships’), I thought I’d try something different.  So, in an attempt to focus on and cherish what I have or have had, here is a summary of all of the romantic gestures I have experienced.  Ever.

  • I once contracted a stomach bug at the house of the object of my affections.  He even saw me throw up through my nose (btw I really wouldn’t recommend this as a good way of being sick).  BUT, instead of running for the hills, he sent me a teddy from the Bear Factory with a little first aid cross on it, complete with a note saying ‘this is a medicinal bear’.  Awwwww!!!  The fact that this bear then turned into my punch bag for whenever a member of the opposite sex pissed me off should probably be overlooked.  Not surprisingly this bear is looking rather squished these days…
  • One guy brought me bacon sandwiches and cupcakes on a Sunday morning to cure me of my hangover, and I didn’t even ask him to!
  • My French ex paid for a luxury Tahitian villa, complete with hot tub and ocean view, for New Years Eve.  The fact that he then used this occasion to casually mention the fact that he was buggering off to New Zealand for 6 months put a slight shadow over the event, and thinking about it the ocean view might just have been a blow-softener, but hey it was romantic up until that point!
  • I’ve been led down a candle-lit staircase into a candle-lit room to find my birthday presents sitting alongside a heap of flowers
  • One guy gave me his Abercrombie hoodie because I was cold.  As a teenager this was a pretty big deal
  • I’ve been on the receiving end of five marriage proposals.  Fine, these were all a result of the guys in question having eaten my chocolate brownies (and no they didn’t contain any hallucinogenic substances), but I’m beginning to scrape the barrel now
  • I’ve had the words ‘I love you’ said to me a few times, but I’m pretty sure at least two of them don’t count as one guy was permanently high or drunk and the other was 17 (I hasten to add that I was also 17 at the time, teenagers really aren’t my scene any more!)
  • Someone carried me across a puddle so I didn’t ruin my suede strappy sandals – literally swept me off my feet! (I know, I’m gagging too, apologies for the poor turn of phrase)
  • Really beginning to struggle here…
  • Ooh I know!  The Frenchie told me that he loved me because I was good in the kitchen.  If that doesn’t scream modern-day romance I don’t know what does…
  • The Australian wanted to marry me.  He offered to pay me.  He wanted a visa…  Hmmm ok I don’t think that one counts either.  Argh!
  • Must.  Stay.  Positive.
  • Someone once told me I looked like Summer from The OC, which may not count as romantic but it was definitely a compliment!  This was then swiftly ruined by the guy stating that this was the only reason he’d wanted to be my boyfriend.  Ouch.
  • I think someone once bought me a present when it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas, but then again that could have been me treating myself or my mum being nice to me…
  • Oh I give up

Well… it would seem that the last 25 years have been rather low on the romantic gesture front.  Or, maybe this is just normal.  Maybe I’m not the only once who’s life is devoid of red roses and string quartets and thoughtful gifts and poetry recitals.  Perhaps our perception of romance has been swayed by Hollywood.  And then add to that a good dollop of British reserve and sarcasm: it’s hardly surprising if my tally of romantic gestures is about average.

So, Happy Valentines Day everyone!  If you have a special someone to share it with, I do genuinely hope that you have a lovely time together and aren’t overcome with cynicism about the whole thing.  If you’re a bona fide member of the Lonely Hearts Club, team up with other members and remember that couples aren’t the only ones who can go to restaurants and eat chocolate and get laid and feel good about themselves.  Don’t sit at home with a bottle of wine and the full Richard Curtis DVD collection.  This will only result in texting your ex and feeling like an idiot the next day.  And definitely DO NOT get absolutely hammered and sleep with a fellow single colleague.  This will only bring you untold pain and misery, not to mention an awkward working environment.

Go forth and be merry!

v-day

Mind the gap

Ahh, the tube.  That miracle of engineering.  That transporter of industrious souls off to bring home the proverbial bacon.  That inspiration for poetry, art and music.  Sound familiar?  Thought not.

It is a fact of life that if you live and/or work in London, you will have to take the tube at some point.  If you visit London as a tourist, you will feel that you have to take the tube at some point.  And even if you claim to hate the tube and try to avoid it at all costs (cycling, bus, taxi, walking), you will still have to use it at some point.  The tube is omnipresent (except when you want to buy an affordable house with good transport links which is when there suddenly seems to be an unhealthy lack of tube stations in desirable parts of south London), and you only need to look at the state of near-panic we’re all experiencing ahead of the strikes this week to realise how much we’ve come to depend on that noisy, smelly, overcrowded network of underground passages that are essentially glorified cattle carts.

So without further ado, here are My Top Ten Most Hated Things About The London Underground:

1: PDA Couples

We’ve all encountered them, generally when you’ve just been through a break-up.  WHY do they need to kiss so noisily at 7:30am on a Wednesday??

tubepda

2: The Antisocial Backpack

Generally takes up at least one person’s standing room, and pokes you uncomfortably hard in the boobs with weird buckles and attachments.

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3: The Lone Salmon

That guy who wants to get on the platform when everyone else wants to get off, or hasn’t sorted out his tube strategy and finds himself at the opposite end of the platform from where he needs to be

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4: The Northern Line

Overcrowded, hot, smelly, never works properly, high chance of bumping into someone you don’t want to, confusing for first-timers with that whole ‘Bank Branch’ thing, and a veritable death trap if you want to get on at Clapham Common or Clapham North – why more people haven’t fallen onto the tracks at rush hour defeats me.

clapham

5:The Pole Hogger

That’s where my hand is meant to go!  Shame on you, Patrick Stewart…

pole

6: Over-efficient Heating

Clearly the bods at TFL who control the temperature of the tube have never had to travel on the tube at rush hour.  Mmmm hello someone else’s sweaty armpit…

hot

7: The Mystery Farter

Seriously people, do some squats before you leave the house or something, just get rid of it before you subject a packed carriage to the results of your inner gaseous movements.

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8: The Guy Who Stares

He flouts the no-eye-contact rule, he’s looking at you every time you glance in his direction, and OH MY GOD what is he doing with his hands?!

stare

9: Shit Earphones

Because of course everyone in the carriage wants to listen to angry metal music as well…

earphones2

10: Lad Soc

Drinking cans of Fosters, doing pull-ups on the bars, trying to engage strangers in conversation, tend to be Australian…

lads

Face value

If you ask a girl about what she looks for in a man, she might give any number of answers.  ‘I want a guy who makes me laugh’, ‘I’d like to find a guy who I can trust’, or ‘I just want someone who gets me’.  These are all valid points, and these answers may certainly be truthful.  However, I wonder how much is not being said.

We’re used to men focusing on the physical: ‘I’m a boobs/arse/legs guy’, ‘full lips are a must’, ‘she can’t be fat’ etc.  These criteria tend to preceded the funny/kind/intelligent aspects, and whilst women might not be as vocal about it, we also have our aesthetic preferences.  Let’s be honest, the physical attraction has got to be there at some point, so why are we judged as being shallow by saying that we’d like a guy who’s tall with great arms or a chiselled face or rugby thighs or washboard abs?  Why aren’t we allowed to openly say that we’d like to be chatted up by someone who looks a bit like David Gandy and it doesn’t matter (initially at least) if they don’t have the wit of Oscar Wilde?

Granted, it depends on what kind of scenario you’re in.  I know I’m not the only girl who, when on a night out with friends, will pull a total bitch-face* at anyone who doesn’t score at least 7/10.  In a situation where you’re making quick (and slightly vodka-blurred) judgements, both men and women will assess a potential flirting partner on their looks.  It may sound harsh to say it, but you’re not exactly going to gaze across a bar at some 5’9” overweight sweaty balding guy wearing an England football shirt and think ‘oooh I bet he’s got a great sense of humour, c’mere STUD!’  Or maybe you would, in which case we have completely different tastes in men…  Perhaps the difference lies in what a girl’s ultimate goal is.  If she’s looking for a quick fling, then it’s understandable she’d want it to be with some hunk with biceps big enough to throw her around the bedroom and cheekbones you can cut yourself on.  Personality isn’t the main factor here, it’s sexual chemistry and physical attraction.

On the other hand, I totally accept that someone who doesn’t float your boat initially can grow on you over time.  I have certainly found myself in a situation where I’d met a guy and hadn’t been initially attracted to him, but through spending time with him and getting to know him I became rather besotted.  Average Guy had transformed into Sex God in a matter of months, and no one was more surprised than me.  Needless to say, it didn’t work out, but I think that sort of illustrates my point.  When I think of the couples I know who have been together a long time, nearly all of them were friends before they became romantically involved, and that says a lot.

But I still don’t think that this should mean we can’t admit to wanting to be with a guy who’s physically appealing to more than just his mother.  If we’re talking long-term relationships and even marriage, why shouldn’t I want to be with someone who doesn’t want to make me gag into my pillow a little bit when I wake up every morning?  Obviously we all have varying tastes, and one girl’s David Beckham may be another’s Jonah Hill, and thank heavens for that otherwise there’d be a lot of sad and lonely men and women out there.  But, I do believe we’re allowed to want someone who ticks the box both physically and emotionally.

I’ll admit that I’m pretty damn picky appearance-wise when it comes to men, and perhaps this is where I’m going wrong.  I’ll also admit that at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference.  Perhaps I just find it hard to get past the outward appearance in order to know the ‘inner beauty’.  In my defence, I know I’m not the only girl who’s like this – there are girls I know who will only date male models or at least a guy who’s ripped enough to be in an Abercrombie catalogue.  Even I think this is faintly ridiculous – I know that looks aren’t everything and, ultimately, I’d like to find a guy who offers stimulating conversation, humour, and a sense of trust.  But is it too much to ask to be attracted to someone both inside and out?

fat

‘Whaddya mean you don’t believe I was on this month’s Men’s Health cover??’

* Definition of ‘bitch-face‘: looking at a sub-standard guy who has dared to chat you up with a ‘you think you can tap this?!’ expression on your face.  Raised eyebrow optional.

2013 in numbers

Confession time: I’m a bit of a geek, and I like statistics.  Not that A-level maths module that I remember my classmates moaning about, but figures or images that simplify information into just a few numbers or shapes.  For example:

world

WordPress has already summarized this year in terms blogging stats (see post below). So to that end, I thought I’d summarize my 2013 in numbers.

  • 1 new job
  • 5 interviews
  • 2 new countries visited
  • Approx. 13200 miles travelled by plane
  • Approx. 4000 miles travelled by tube
  • 2 failed relationships
  • 1 Valentines Day card
  • 1 hour spent watching Beyonce perform live
  • Approx. 2210 hours spent in bed
  • 29 dates
  • 1 one-night stand
  • 1 day spent dressed as a pirate
  • 2 bouts of food poisoning
  • 1 new English city visited
  • 5 kilos lost
  • 3 kilos regained
  • 1 lost iPod
  • 3 haircuts
  • 2 new scars
  • Approx. 380 units of alcohol consumed
  • More than 730,000 calories consumed
  • Roughly 12 drunken visits to McDonalds
  • 37 blog posts
  • Over 4000 views (thanks everyone!)
  • 1 new blog platform (thanks to those Single Chicks gals)
  • 3 new online dating profiles
  • 2 booty calls
  • 3 lost Oyster cards
  • 26 new restaurants visited
  • Too many jaegerbombs to count
  • Too many hangovers to count

All in all, a great year!  I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store…

fireworks