30 August, 2010

Men and make-up: Gillette really is the best you can get, just leave it at that okay lads?

I know we’re meant to be pro equality of the sexes, anti gender-discrimination, in favour of a bit of the metrosexual in a man and all the rest of it, and I am…for the most part. Most of me is thrilled that I can wear Boyfriend style jeans and not have the world immediately assume I got dressed in a mans room in the dark and/or bat for the other team. I am quite happy for the unfairer sex to get in the kitchen and concoct some gourmet Jamie Oliver creation while we get on with painting the bathroom. I’ll even lend my apron (like I have an apron) when my male housemates want to cook me cheese fondue. From scratch. (No really). And obviously 99% of me is pleased that women can work pretty much equally to men now. And the 1% of me that isn’t pleased is a just a lazy cow who’s in a mood because she needs another tub of ice cream. All hail equality, basically, if it hasn’t been said already…

My qualm is that these days it’s less ‘what can women do to become more equal to men’ and more ‘how many more eyeliners does this guy need before he’s got more than his girlfriend’? Wrong, off beam, a sorry mistake, one to tell the grandkids maybe but still just plain wrong! For there is a big difference between gaining equality and just down-right thieving the essence of the opposite gender.

This struck me most recently when reading September Glamour’s interview with Tinie Tempah, who admitted he’d decided to launch a fashion range because he didn’t like the fact his sisters ‘could literally fix your car whilst cooking you a full English.’ That’s great for the ‘Tempah’ sisters. Really great. I mean they probably aren’t going to endure Spidergate any time soon and the chances are their garage bill is going to be a lot less per annum, but why Tinie then needed to go and launch a fashion range to balance things out is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong, I am in support of men being fashionable, stylish even, in fact it’s a bit of a deal breaker for me that they are, but to design your own line just to match the multitasking abilities of your automobile fixing sisters? A Tinie bit extreme.

And again when watching Big Brother this summer it came to my attention that the more John James liked Josie, the more eyeliner he put on. John James, just because we look better with dark eye make-up and find it to be an effective form of seduction, that doesn’t mean you do or indeed will. If anything, I imagine Josie became increasingly alarmed and wondered what the hell she’d got herself into. ‘Is he going to be borrowing my best Mac lipstick when I’m not looking? Will he look better in it than me? Will he be pilfering my advantage card points when my back’s turner?’ No no no, guyliner wearers! Now here’s some facial wipes, be a good lad and take the eyeliner off while you make us another cup of tea.

I’m more than happy for a man to take care of himself, in fact there’s nothing hotter than a guy who knows his style and rocks it, just as long as he doesn’t frock it. I draw the line where I open Heat magazine to see Alex Reid 10,000 Oranginas more tanned than he ever was before, purely so that Jordan doesn’t out-bronze him. Really, Alex, choose your competitors wisely in future – anything you can do, she will put more fake tan on better.

***This does seem to be what celebrity couples do when they split up. They set out to become as orange as possible. Is this some weird concept us muggles aren’t in on? Is it that they get so used to having someone apply their fake tan for them, that when the other half’s no longer there to do it they get the quantities just all wrong? Or is there some bizarre clause in celebrity divorce contracts that states ‘he who resembles an oompa loompa first, laughs the longest’?***

Anyway, the beauty battle is something that should never have become a cross-gender sport. We don’t see Kelly Holmes running up against Darren Campbell in the Olympic Games; we should not see Peter Andre coming in a close second to Katie Prices amber traffic light impression.

First of all this is not hypocritical because, equal opportunities aside, there are still no signs of us girls getting the big guns out, invading your masculine territory and leaving a big red cross of lipstick where we conquer. Just because we the women folk now work, vote and, beggar’s belief, wear jeans, does not make us essentially any less feminine. I can do 12 hour days in a pretty frock no problem. I can do sit-ups in a full face of make-up. And I’m fairly sure the fact I earn my own salary doesn’t make my boobs any smaller. The equality women have gained does not see us happily displaying a nice frame of chin stubble, wearing afore mentioned jeans half way down our French Knickers* (no pants-on-the-ground boys, that still doesn’t look cool) and playing burp the alphabet with our mates over sushi.

So why, men, do you insist on going one better than just re-tipping the balance of equality, but go to the lengths of categorically stealing our femininity. Not only are you well and truly erasing the lines of sexuality, you’re also making it nigh on impossible for us to be sexy. Soon all it will come down to between a boy and a girl is what’s under your G-string. As interesting as that may be, there’s something very wrong with this notion and, worse still, something very unsexy.

I am not conservative in any light and I would rather be sharing a bloke’s wardrobe than forced into bloomers and a bustle while I scrub the billiard room from noon ‘til night, but at the end of the day, when all is said and done, all things considered, ultimately and basically, joking apart, there needs to be mystery between a man and a woman. And so when he’s got a ‘widger’ (thank you Josie BB 10) and you have not, there are just some things (other than the obvious) that should be done differently.

There needs to be secrets, boys, you’ve got to leave us something. Soon you won’t be wondering how the hell we look so good in a bikini, but you’ll be filching our cellulite busting cream so that you can look that good next year. Soon you won’t be amazed at how well we throw our outfits together to look effortlessly chic, but you’ll be tutting to your mates that you know we’ve copied Cheryl’s look from this month’s vogue. Soon, my dear men, we will resentfully be vowing to love, honour and share beauty secrets until death do us part.

So please lads, I beg of you, put down the guyliner, the man tan, the sarongs and the GHDs, step away from the walk in wardrobe and wegde you’re ass back out of our skinny jeans. We already have a tough enough time staying chic and pretty enough to compete with the rest of the female population, without you getting involved and nipping at our heels. Literally.

*I note there is the occasional exception to this rule. JODIE MARSH.

27 August, 2010

Smoking, Pineapple and L’Oreal: What’s your deal-breaker? (because you’re worth it)

"Thank god, if she'd dared to pull out Elle..."

So one of my recently de-coupled friends has launched himself back out onto the dating dance-floor and is sampling the delights of single life once more. I am happy for him obviously, but I am also happy for myself. For he is proving to be nothing less than a fountain of inspiration when it comes to relationship related musings (which I Love). You see, the joy of a newly single person is that they’re exploration back into the single world is like they’re doing it for the very first time.

"A date? I have to go on a date? Do people still go on those?? What do you mean I can’t specify the details of my previous relationship within 24 hours of knowing them? And since when did a text not mean I LOVE YOU??!!!!?" Err...dating is not like riding a bike, apparently.

The point is, when you’re so used to the familiarity, comfort and all-sharing-ness of a relationship, sometimes newly singles have a hard time learning that all the above cannot be applied back out at the cattle market that is today’s dating world.  Forget cattle market, it’s more like an unruly auction. You shine yourself up, put yourself on e-lay or amour-zon and the highest bidder wins.*

But getting used to being available again is one thing; actually dealing with the uncertainties of lustful networking is quite another obstacle course all together. There’s the ‘is he looking at me or the discrepancy in my ear levels?’, ‘should I go over?’, ‘when should I text?’, ‘what if he doesn’t text back?’, ‘shall I just ring/Facebook/fax?’, ‘why did it go to voicemail?’ and ‘are u sure that the fact he has blocked me on all social networking sites and both his mobiles isn’t just him playing it really cool...?’

Well some things are more certain than others, but for my featured friend, just when he think he’s nailed the game, something comes up and reminds him that nothing is certain in the dating sphere and it doesn’t take much to turn a potential love interest into wanted posters in your street’s neighbourhood watch log. 

(Not helped, I might add, by the ever increasing forums of potential communication and rejection. Bring back the days when you just sent a hand-written letter by horse and cart and if you’d not heard back 3 weeks later you knew there was a high chance the driver had caught pneumonia in the middle of a Jane Austen, letter disappeared in a rainstorm of pathetic fallacy. By which time Darcy had swept you off your feet anyway and you didn’t care about the boy from last week’s banquet. That was the life. ) 

So my friend had met someone last weekend, has been texting them ever since, had a good few phone calls and the promise of a drink next week. A walk in the park? No. He rang me up yesterday  no longer than one hour after a cheeky work email telling me how great it was going, sounding nothing less than perplexed. “I’ve been dumped already?!”  Why? I hear you all snivel! What had he done? It had been going so well!

Well, having been exchanging obligatory introductory get-2-know-u texts with his new beau, he had casually mentioned his smoking habit. ERROR. Potential new lover had recoiled in disgust and proclaimed “oh...you had been doing so well!” Ominous. He’s not even a 60 a day man (smokes that is), just a good old fashioned have-a-fag-when-you-feel-like-it smoker. This clearly was not something he had ever envisaged as a potential ripple in cupids swimming pool. Or in his case, a tidal wave that left him washed ashore and afraid to dive back in again.

“Since when did smoking become a deal breaker?!”

He cried, not so much to me as the entire world around him, sounding not woeful but more like he was looking across mountains mid-sunset having a vague epiphany.

I found myself admitting (highly unsupportively) that smoking is in fact, for me, a bit of a deal breaker. You only have to look at my line up of lad history to see that although they may all have enjoyed revelry like Russell Brand enjoys...well more revelry, none of them have smoked and they have all taken good care of themselves. “Soz mate, hate to agree with the enemy...”

I have other deal breakers. Jeans. A man must wear good fitting jeans. And with confidence. Any sign of ankle-swinging, a lack of grip on the rear or an excess of cling on the thighs and they’re off (the boy, not the jeans). In fact, it’s less a deal breaker and more a pre-signed contract if he dons his D&G’s with a swagger. I would probably go out with Keith Chegwin (a.k.a most irritating man on planet) if he rocked up in some stunning Levi’s and a dapper man scarf...
But it does make you wonder doesn’t it. I mean, everybody’s deal breaker is surely different and the chance of one arising is so high. As Jude Law's Alfie sums up 

"in every doomed relationship there comes what I like to call the uh-oh moment"

So is smoking a universal deal breaker for non-smokers? Are non-smokers a big red cross for nicotine addicts? What else is my friend going to have to keep on the DL for fear of scaring future potentials? Do we need to worry that the fact we have a grease addiction to hand cream will put them off us ever getting near the buttons of their Armani shirt? Should we be concerned that if we casually decide to go back to highlights it will send him running for the peaks and dropping us off at the local salon on the way, armed with paint-stripper? Will our bright lipstick see them exclaiming 'it’s not you, it’s me, I just hate L’Oreal....'?!

Chandler Bing consider this when he cries "what if I've found her, but I dumped her because she pronounced it 'supposably?"

You can go to the gym 80 times a week and get a Cameron Diaz body, you can endure collagen for Angelina's lips, you can eat blueberries until your skin glows brighter than Gunther’s hair*, you can move continents and casually camp outside George Clooney’s house reading all his favourite novels until he notices you, but you cannot change the fact you like pineapple on your pizza and enjoy One Tree Hill (ahem). 

So yes, dear friend, it is a hazard zone and just as you think the deal is indeed sealed, there are a zillion triggers that could come along and prompt an apologetic call from their lawyer. But luckily for you, shopping for better offers is 99% of the fun, so just keep browsing. And don’t you dare go below the asking price!

* Hopefully highest meaning literally if you’re anything like me and fall for the tall
** Gunther from Friends in case there was any doubt or any other Gunthers I may have been referring to

24 August, 2010

Rain Stopped Style and Praying to George Lamb

First, I would like to state that the weather is a perfectly acceptable topic of chat.  There is always that person exclaiming that ‘people have nothing better to discuss than the weather!’, ‘to talk about the weather is boring!’ and ‘who cares about the weather!’ Well I have news for you, sunshine, everybody cares about the weather.

 It is one of the few things, after food and sex, which the whole world is interested in. Of course they are. It is a major theme of everybody’s day. Every day.

We may wear different clothes, do different jobs, have different relationships, cook different meals and pray to different gods (I am fairly sure I am one of a very few who pray to George Lamb), but we dwell under the same sky.  Yes the weather is marginally different in Blackpool to what it is in Timbuktu, but the question of ‘what is the weather today?’ affects us all. Whether we like it or not. And therefore it is little wonder it’s one of the key points to cover off in small talk.

I ‘m more than happy to talk about the weather because most weather gives us something get excited about. Sunny? A winner for obvious reasons. Rain? Massive prompt to eat chocolate, brilliant! Snow? Snowed in, even better. You get my point. What I do have beef with though, is when one town embraces more climates within the space of an hour than David Guetta releases collaborations, I mean how are we supposed to work around that?

It makes things beyond tricky, because the weather affects our clothes, our crops, the traffic, our mood, our ability to spy on the neighbour’s laundry. And, using the past 24 hours as a prime example, the weather really affects our cool. And I’m not just talking about temperature.  In the past 24 hours alone I have lost my cool because of the weather on no less than two very public occasions.

Preparing for my run last night was a real conundrum. It had been warm all day, but when 6.30pm found me standing at the tram stop, the rain started pelting in to the tram stop. You may not all know the ergonomics of a tram stop, but for rain to pelt in is a pretty good effort by Zeus. And by the time I got home you could have been forgiven for mistaking me for pond-life.

So I felt ridiculous putting on the old shorts over goosebumped legs only to go haring back out into the wilderness in, but if you’re an ‘efficient cooler’ like me, you know that within 7 seconds of running you’re going to be a balmy red mess. So shorts it was. And, by degrees, it was a fine choice. Ha, take that Mother Nature! What I hadn’t foreseen was the negative consequences of rain on shiny pavement. Pounding along quite happily to pendulum, I was thrown off gleeful tempo by sudden lack of relationship between feet and ground. Three is a crowd, rain! And so I fell.

Luckily I happened to be rounding a corner and managed to turn my fall into a nifty slide into the park, never mind my face was 2 inches from the ground as I did so. But had I not then disappeared into the anonymity of said park; the cars and people on the main road could have really made that an embarrassing moment.

And again today (George lamb what are you doing to me), I cheerily smiled at my radio when Dave of Chris Moyle’s Show said it was sunny across most of the UK this morning. Making the most of the last of the summer, I happily threw on short shorts and sunglasses and headed out the door without so much as a worry in my head. La la la la la la. I arrived at work full of the joys of life, only to be laughed at by my friends ‘oooh you’re going to regret that’ they chuckled ‘did you just walk to work like that?’ another begged of me. I looked out the window, looking for a reason for their remarks. Did they know something I didn’t know?

YES. they knew that the sun now disappearing behind a cluster of clouds wouldn’t in fact be returning, but would just be turning. Into rain. ‘Well, I sniffed, I’m not cold’ and I plonked myself down in my seat, wondering if drinking tea all day would be a worthy substitute for trousers. And lone behold, as the day grew longer, so did my complaints about how cold I was. I even tweeted about it (see below)*

So I spent the rest of the day nonchalantly striding around the building in shorts, while the rest of my work (who are grownups with common sense) sat comfortably in their cardi’. My abstinence from caffeine went swiftly out the window for want of something to warm me up, though the window remained firmly closed.

I know I’m not the only person who has a problem with unreliable climates, because you can see the entire fashion world descend into chaos. Once, at uni, my lecture buddy turned to me en route up a particularly clammy hill on what had started out a toe-chilling day, and declared that everyone was in a bloody pickle. “There are tights over there with sunglasses, what’s that about? And over there, look! There’s an umbrella above bare legs and a mini skirt. No one knows what the hell they're doing.” And he was right. That pavement to uni that day was like Marc Jacobs summer collection had taken a wrong turn and caused a multi-trend pile up in the middle of Vivienne Westwoods winter range.

So the moment I wake up, before I put on my make-up, I’ll say a little prayer to Zeus (George Lamb is fired), and hope he can provide some damn weather-centric consistency in an otherwise inconsistent and unpredictable world...

*HannahRuthPR : cheers sun! Come out long enough for me 2 don shorts then scurry off behind a glory of rain! @SallyRushton & @diggerlisa were right dammit !x about 2 hours ago via HootSuite

22 August, 2010

Bus Etiquette, Tube Trauma and Tram Panic

I have no problem with using public transport. I enjoy it in fact. I love walking to the tram stop. I love waiting at the bus stop. I love sitting on the train staring out the window in what I hope is an endearing rather than gormless manner. And most of all, I love the fact I can go anywhere in Sheffield all day long for a mere £3. Thank you Dayrider.

What I do not love is the sheer panic that fills me every time I have to find a seat without falling over, every time I have to show my pass without taking ages and causing tuts from the fat huffing and puffing man next to me, every time I have a full half hour conversation loudly on my phone before realising yes I’m on public transport and yes 67% of Sheffield and probably some of my colleagues now know what I did last night. Public transport is an absolute minefield of social decorum and an embarrassing episode just waiting to pounce on you and your Metro.

So during my years as an old-school tram-hopper, London tube runner and sporadic bus frequenter I have picked up a few tips to help us through the daunting obstacle course of what I like to call Bus Etiquette*.

Rule Number One: know your hazard spots.

Get your ticket ready (like really ready, don’t just ‘know where it is’)
I learnt this lesson again last week when I hastily tried to achieve my tram pass from my purse on One Of Those Days and ended up spilling shrapnel all down the carriage**, catching oversized ring on jacket (that’ll teach me), said ring’s stone goes flying, scratching nearest window. Story ended with me a flustered and highly uncool mess, while everyone else breathed a sigh of relief that today it hadn’t been them.

Seat Nav’
If you’re fortunate enough for there to be spare seating and therefore a reduced chance of standing the whole way, swaying and jerking around like a post-crawl pre-walking tot, negotiate how you’re going to get to your seat the instant you set foot on the tram/bus/train. If you find yourself casually meandering towards an available seat, there is quantitative evidence that before you know it the carrier of choice is likely to have taken off again, seeing that you’re unhappily jolted into the lap of an appalled Grandma/over-excited middle aged man. Each of these has happened to me on more than one occasion.

Know your routes and never get cocky
Do not assume that the Northern Line at 10pm on Sunday is going to be the same as the Circle Line at noon on Saturday lunchtime. It is not. Not so long ago I was ‘expertly’ changing at Victoria on a (worse for wear) Sunday morning and the ease of my trek up to this point had made me indeed cocky, despite the swarming masses now surrounding me. Before I knew it, amongst a flock of Busy Sweaty People, I had nonchalantly swung my massive bag through the tube doors before me, ready to skip on after it, only for the tube doors to close with my bag inside it. So there’s me on the platform clinging on to the strap, while an army of people tried fruitlessly to help me yank the bag back through a 0.5mm gap. After a panicked 10 seconds, an announcement was made on my behalf (Die), the tube doors were re-opened, my bag came swinging back through, some clapped, some scowled at me for delaying them by a full a half minute. I, needless to say, waited for the next tube and thanked Victoria Beckham for over-sized sunglasses.

Finally, never assume you are safe!
Even when you have mastered the ticket/seat/route-knowledge fandango, there are still the unforeseen terrors of transport that love to come and tickle you just when you’ve got comfy. Just the other day, I was contentedly learning how Cheryl really feels about her divorce from Ashley, when the Crazy Singing Woman on my tram started asking me (why meeeee) very loudly and in soprano if I was happy and feeling blessed by the lord. Well, despite the fact I was actually feeling pretty damn jammy, I didn’t fancy sharing this with the population of my carriage. So I sort of half-smiled, half-cringed, then pretended I couldn’t hear her further godly interrogation by staring intently at Ashley Cole’s slutty new bit on the page before me, turning up my ipod for good measure and basically stamping myself with MOODY BITCH in big red letters. I lost a few stranger-friends in that moment. And probably God’s love.

But until I stop loving the free-spiritedness of public transport or get given a pink Audi TT (pinning a photograph of this next to my desk has bizarrely not caused one to materialise), I will continue to report on my travelling fandango’s and what to watch out for when boarding the 724 to Heathrow or making the most of your Young Person discount.

*Bus Etiquette can be applied to any mode of transport that involves sharing with 2 or more strangers NB: I would hope this automatically rules out your car.
** I never got the shrapnel back, because it so happened the Tram Tramp picked it up for me that day.

21 August, 2010

Dear Heckling Men, We’re never going to holler back, Love Innocent Females (or so I thought)

Last week I was moseying into town, i-pod loaded with pre-shopping tunes, smiling in the sunshine, basking in my own little happy fizz, when I was jerked back into reality by a group of people about 100 yards on. They were standing pavement side, in a beer garden, yelling across the road in offensively loud voices, whistling enthusiastically whilst also laughing, donning cocky facial expressions and making dramatic arm gestures at someone across the street. Pause Paolo Nutini.

What’s so unusual about that? I hear you ask. Remarkably there’s nothing remarkable about a group of men being obnoxious in public, and more than likely hollering at some poor wee lass making her way past. What was unusual, however, was the fact this group was in fact a gaggle of pretty, lovely looking young females, dressed in summery cotton frocks and cool sunglasses with beautiful tumbling hair and Cheryl Cole smiles. Dear Description, You do not fit Picture. Please kindly explain. Regards, World.

Upon further investigation, I realised what these girls were doing was responding to the same thing being done to them on the opposite side of the street, by a group of fluorescent jackets, grubby jeans and beer bellies, who looked as though they’d had one too many last March and decided to carry on.

This caught my attention because recently I have had a recurring heckling man problem: there is a group of fluorescent jackets and vans by the park near my house, laying down what appears to be about 1.7 bricks a day (and therefore showing no signs of buggering off any time soon). And unfortunately they have recently realised about 6 months in that the same girl who runs past them every morning at 6.30am looking an absolute mess, is in fact the same girl who saunters past them an hour and a half later on route to work completely transformed. And my god is it fuel to their simple fire. The taunts, the yells, the jeers.

I find hollering builders, road-workers, van drivers, lorry drivers, juggernaut loaders and roadside beer bellies a real pain the a**. I’m no feminist, and I really don’t mind the cave man-esque appreciation of the female form (and as it would appear any form that breathes). I even occasionally enjoy it if they’re particularly good looking or remotely in my age range. What bothers me is not so much what they’re doing, whistling and chortling away like they’ve grown up in a monastery and they’ve just been given news that there’s no tomorrow, no what really gets my goat is what do they really think is going to happen?

It’s like they’re convinced that an over-weight, grimy cave man is the most appealing thing in the world, especially when they’re waving an egg butty around. Moreover, they’re utterly certain that the highest compliment a girl can receive is either “waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay” or “fancy bringing me some tea sweetheart” and that therefore we’re going to turn to them in a glorious halo of light, flee into their arms and cry “My Hero! Thank god you found me! Please take me to a Premier Inn right away!” I mean, if they weren’t sure this was going to happen one day, why would they keep doing it?

Even when I can get passed that conundrum, and occasionally I do put it to a corner of my mind and focus on other things, I am permanently stumped by the recurring question of just what are you supposed to then do with yourself when heckling starts and you’re forced to walk past (or even run in my case) in your suddenly uncomfortably tight work clothes? (Aside from wear a boiler suit to work and change when you get there, I have already considered this option).

Do you scowl disapprovingly? Do you smile good-naturedly and therefore look like you might be remotely interested/a bit of a slut? Do you turn your nose up dismissively and look like you’re completely up yourself and just sooo used to that kind of attention, therefore provoking louder sniggers and cries of “cheer up laaaaaaaav!”? I never know. I’m liable to hastily swinging between all of the above, because it is one of the few things in life that I find nearly impossible to ignore. You can hear them, you’re uncomfortable, they know you can hear them and they know you’re uncomfortable. They win. You lose. Every single time.

But apart from move house, emigrate or act out a Bond-girl-esque sneaking past them disguised as a granny every morning, there’s not a lot we can do. I tend to opt for the ‘i-pod turned up, sunglasses on and lips pursed’ approach, so as not to flinch in any way. (Though usually I just crack up laughing and ruin it). Yes I look like a prat-ette for twenty seconds of every day, twice, but I find it the only way to avoid buckling under the pressure.Except my ‘no-reaction’ couldn’t look more like a reaction if it tried.

This is why I was so struck by the response of these jeering girls en route to town the other day; it was a stroke of genius! Just Do It Back. The one thing that will throw the pesky men right back into their dusty automobiles and screeching for the safety of the nearest greasy spoon. What’s less attractive than a loud, jeering, crude man? A loud, jeering, crude female. Except, to do this in the safety of your girly clique is fine, as there’s a high chance you’re all just really cool, clever and funny, but to do this on your own at 8.00am when trying to emulate Young Professional, there’s a higher chance you will just look MENTAL.

So until I’m brave enough to act like a mentalist in public (when soba) I’m going to keep my earphones firmly in, stock up on giant sunglasses and pray that soon it will be too dark in the mornings for them to see me. Either that or pay to hire a different army of builders to do their job in one night (as the bricks seems to be now getting fewer instead of more), send the charming horde packing and do everyone a favour.

19 August, 2010

Skinny Jeans required (preferably no Skinny Genes required)

Every year it happens – the leaves turn red, the chill on our legs overrides the desire to wear a dress and we breathe a sigh of relief at being able to hide under clothing and therefore avoid imaginary red rings around bums and tan stripes (since my late celebrity gossip magazine days, I automatically see giant scarlet circles around peoples body parts and/or garments whenever I see something noteworthy. Much like when you’ve been playing Tetris and still see the shapes before your eyes when you close them).  
So every year this happens and it is a relief, it is an annual release from body image prison. Until you realise that although the bikini panic may be behind you for another year (thank you Kelly Brook for embracing curves at New Look – sorted for life), another garment related obstacle is looming on the September horizon, the sheer mountain that is the purchase of the annual pair of jeans.

Now, when I was a student and had money (the irony, I know) I could buy Diesel jeans that instantly transformed me into something acceptable and lasted me several years, but now that I have to spend my own money (and they have discontinued my favourite Diesel style) I have to invest in an annual pair from H&M, Primark or if I’m lucky River Island. And it is a draaaag.

So now jeans season is nearly upon us, or so the shock to my goose-bumped legs told me as the sun went behind the clouds this morning, and it’s a time that has always been challenging. It’s not just a case of different waist & leg sizes anymore. Oh no. Its different waists, heights, waist –heights, lengths, ranges, brands, colours, shades, fits...and that’s after we’ve spent a good few hours window shopping to short-list the shops even worth browsing. Basically if Diesel ever brings back Cherone I could save a lot of time every autumn and carve a few extra pumpkins. Don’t underestimate the value of repeat buying. If only it was like Dr’s prescriptions, where you can just call a number and a repeat order will hit your doormat on the first Saturday of every September. Really it should be an NHS service, given the medical attention I’m going to need after this year’s forthcoming jeans shopping attempt.

And now, to make matters worse, those naughty noughties saw the return of the skinny jean. The bane of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love skinny jeans. I Heart them. Black, blue, faded, straight leg, drainpipe, I think they look gorgeous. On sienna Miller. Problem is, when like me you lack the Skinny Gene and are abstaining from appetite appeasing Diet Coke for want of fewer e-numbers, there’s a chance there’s going to be some extra junk in your trunk when it comes to squeezing into the trimmer trouser, unless you upgrade. And upgrading a clothes size is the worst kind of upgrade there is.

I’m not saying the curvy lass can’t pull off skinny jeans. I am sure many can rock their J-Lo’s marvellously in such a garment. My issue is, that come winter you want to finally feel like you don’t need to be the trimmest thing in town, and skinny jeans have the unfortunate side effect of clinging to your every cell. Thought you could hide under winter layers? No. Not if you want to stay ‘on trend’, my friend.
Well of course they're smiling, their jeans shopping involves ordering a Personal Shopper to buy every size 0 in town
I I'm determined in the next few weeks to find some skinny jeans that are low-rise, my size, faded in parts yet not in the parts that need minimising, drain-piped enough to tuck into boots yet not so slim my ankles fall off, do not leave me feeling like I’ve just gone out wrapped in cling film and have a magical expanding waistband that means under no circumstances will I have to upgrade.  If I find them I will let you know. 

Without wanting to be the first to lose faith in my own mission, I will be continuing to sit myself up all the way to hell until I have abs that put Fergie to shame, just in case the above prayer is not answered.

18 August, 2010

The Diet Coke break of an addict

"It's 11.30...Diet Coke Break"
After the 19th re-fill, paul wondered if he should still be sneaking vodka in...
Two weeks ago I signed myself up for the longest diet coke break of my life as I know it. Here’s why.

So enough people have made jokes now about ordering a full-fat Big Mac, fries & apple pie, then asking for a casual Diet Coke on the side to save a few calories.  Yes it’s funny, ironic even, we get it.

Girls in particular love to pretend to themselves they’re being ‘healthy’ by having low calorie drinks with their meat -feast deep pan, eating half of 4 different biscuits (I have driven ALL past housemates insane with this tactic) and deciding that if they skip lunch, the Double Decker calories most certainly will not count. Under any circumstances. No, Shhh, I said under ANY circumstances!!

Joey in Friends sums this fake-calorie-saving trend up perfectly “Just don’t order a garden salad and then eat my food!” he shouts. And gets me every time.

I personally, along with the chomping on half a hobnob habit, have a mental block where Diet Coke is concerned.  I am obsessed with it. It makes me feel like i’m taking the healthy option and wins me over, over and over again. And as a girl who loves Skinny Jeans but has no Skinny Genes (cheers siblings who stole these) who can blame me really!

A few years ago I deduced that 1 + 1 =2. Diet coke is only 3 calories per 330mls + if I drink diet coke I am being healthy = therefore I should drink diet coke as often as I can all day long. No? Oh.

Fellow Diet Coke (DC)  addicts, you may find, like me, that over the years your love for the low calorie beverage has quickly gone from a casual can at lunchtime to a roaring need for another fix every day from about 11am until 7pm, when you move onto Wine (but that’s another tale...) Suddenly when the vending machine ran out of DC’s it wasn’t a case of “oh well” it was a case of calculating if you could power to the nearest newsagents and still get back to your desk in time for yet another meeting. Suddenly you’re no longer rewarding yourself (for hard work/food abstinence/Facebook abstinence) with ice cream breaks and a quick Facebook check, but now with and only with yet another ice cold can of the good stuff.

The weightiness of my addiction hit me a few weeks ago, when I was holidaying and had no call for diet-coke breaks, yet come mid- morning, lunchtime, mid-afternoon and dusk still felt a burning desire for my tinny silver friend.  A desire that resulted in headaches, petulance and a keen interest in chewing gum. It hit me, standing in the queue at intermarchè, when I caught myself eyeing up not the hot jean-claude/paul/luke at the cash desk, but the 2 litre bottle of sugar free bubble he was scanning for the customer in front of me, that it was time for a change. For although it may be fewer calories, no amount of running and lettuce chomping (both of which I put myself through daily) would counteract the negative effects of my fizzy fetish. 

So I boarded the wagon, perched myself in carriage DC and intend to stay put for as long as possible, until I feel i can safely pass my Co-op without having to nip in for a ‘browse’ and come out with a 24-pack for under my bed. So next time you or someone you know notes how simply hilarious it is that they requested a coca-cola light with their regal banquet, maybe you can just prod them and let them know that actually it is a very slippery slope and the low-cal drink could be the most  mischievous sprite at their picnic.

17 August, 2010

Spider-gate: The curse of the damsel and the hero

Again Spiderman wondered if he'd prefer his job if he wasn't gay...
Last night something happened to me, something that happens to women worldwide, to young girls playing innocently in the park, to elderly women minding their own business in the bingo hall, to mums trying to get their kids ready for school. No I’m not talking about the realisation that Men are from Mars, I’m talking about the inevitable Spider-gate.

Spider-gate, as it shall now be known, is the scenario whereby the average woman is happily going about her day, wondering if she should buy Cosmo or The Guardian, whether she should invest in Spanx and if she would flirt back with Simon Cowell, only to have her day suddenly and frighteningly interrupted by an unwelcome creature. This creature is of course a spider. Spider on her floor, in her cupboard, next to her shower, or any other place of choice, thereby causing an instant fear, a round of yelping and the need for a man to come and save her. Oh yes, spider-gate starting to sound familiar?

Last night, at 11.10pm, I had said goodnight to my housemate Dave, ended all discussion as to which Big Brother contestant should win this year and was happily moisturising with a tinted moisturiser, pondering what I would wear the next day and getting very excited for catching up on my favourite American beautiful-people drama, when out of the corner of my freshly de-make-up’d eyes, I saw something scuttle. Scuttle in a way that only a demon could. I shut my eyes, opened one, peeked out of it, saw scuttling continue. Jumped up on bed, turned to face direction of scuttling, plucked up the courage to open both eyes at the same time and acknowledge the 10” x 10” (description not to scale), 8-legged fiend happily marching across my bedroom.

“Eeehhhh”. There it was, The first of a marathon of wails that would consequently leave my mouth. Louder, “EeeehhhhhhhHHH!” Spidermonster stops moving. Its 76 eyes glancing nervously around the room. It sits. It sits. It sits. Meanwhile my yelps are getting louder. “MaaaaaaHHHHhhhhhhHHHH!”

After several minutes of “ehhhhs”, “maaahs”, scuttles, sitting, standing on beds and refusing to blink, I became aware I was waiting for someone to respond to my yelps and take action against Spidermonster my behalf. The only someone who was around to do so, was my housemate. Dave. A man. Which is how I became a damsel.
 “Daaave?” I call down the stairs. Wait. Nothing. “Daaaaaaaaaave!” Nothing. Spider still in sitting and scuttling sequence (is it dancing?) Fear building. Heart-rate rocketing. Spidermonster is blocking the door. There is simply no way out. “DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVE!!!” Nothing. No amount of yodelling could get darling Dave’s attention.

I spy my phone next to my laptop across the room. Okay plan B. I start to shuffle across my bed towards my phone. But with each shuffle I make, Spidermonster sort of matches it. I shuffle forward. It scuttles. I wait. It sits. I shuffle. It scuttles. Shuffle, scuttle, shuffle, scuttle, shuffle, scuttle. When I can take no more of this spidery dance, I decide to go for it and bound into the air and onto the desk-chair to safety. Looking cautiously to check on Spidermonsters progress and I pick up my phone and proceed to ring Dave.

“Hello?” he says, only slightly confused as to why I am calling him from one ceiling above.

“Hi Dave, you okay?” (Trying to be breezy and sound nonchalant whilst balancing on my desk chair, in my polka-dot pyjamas, eyes blood shot from lack of blinking…competing with a SPIDER!!!).
“Yeah. ‘sup?”

“Errr. Yeah. Can u, erm, come up here for a minute, there’s sort of a spider and it’s looking at me and moving and, errr, could you errr, get it for me?” Then, as an after-thought, “Do you like spiders? I mean don’t worry if you don’t like spiders.” Really? Did I really have a plan B if Dave didn’t like spiders?

“Yeah (cool as you like) sure I’ll come and get it.” Just like that. Like I’d asked him to pass me the salt. Did he not realise I meant a real spider? With legs? And eyes? And the ability to...SCUTTLE?

Within two minutes Dave had captured Spidermonster in a glass, walked downstairs with it, taken it outside and nodded obligingly in my direction. All he was lacking was a sword and the tilt of his helmet. Job done ma’ lady. He even pretended not to clock my dishevelled appearance. “Night Han!” he calls nonchalantly as he leaves the room, as if he hasn’t just saved my life.

“Thank you! Thanks Dave, thanks so much, cheers for that mate, gosh thanks!” I continue to call down the stairs long after he’s out of ear-shot. I remain standing on the chair for a good five minutes afterwards, phone in hand, staring in a trance, utterly flabbergasted.

This episode got me to thinking, for I had just a ticked a major cliché off of my Life List, for this was a universal and stereotypical scenario. Of course it was going to happen one day. Bridget Jones more than likely needed Darcy to get rid of a spider wedged between one of her many diaries. I am certain Romeo had to sweep a spiddly creature from the parlour while Juliet cowered on the balcony. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Boadicea didn’t at some point need her warriors to chase a tarantula off her shield, while another held her safely on his noble steed and averted her eyes with his roman weaponry...

It got me to thinking – why does this happen? For, despite what my story might suggest, I am not a girly girl. I am brave. Though my weaknesses in life are Dresses, Men and Wine, I also am quite happy to jump out of a canoe into slimy river water whilst yanking most ungracefully on the front of said canoe in order to free it (and with it my sister) from the treacherous rocks that had captured us whilst on a recent nautical adventure in the South of France. Oh no, you won’t catch me lounging on the Riviera.

So my question is how do us not-so-girly-really girls manage to fall straight into the damsel in distress category the second any of the damsel-in-distress stereotypical situations arise? Is it some unlawful hereditary gene that means all girls, whoever they are, will always squeal at spiders, cry at the Notebook and find happiness in the middle of a Boost bar? I don’t think so. Genetics shenetics. We can overcome our genes. Born a chubber? Do the Atkins. Born ginger? Bleach it. Born a boy? Get a sex-change. We can overcome our genes! Whatever this force is, it’s stronger than genes. It’s a powerful power that dares us to defy it!

So, I have a theory and my theory is thus:

Long long ago, in however many years BC it is that humans began to rein the earth; there was a group of lads. A gang. A cool, cool gang. Cupid was the leader and he only let blokes with names like Darcy, R-Patz, Russell Crowe and Cadbury’s Milk Tray Man join the club. They got together around a camp fire, banged a drum and decided that in order to get laid on a regular basis, they must find a way to make all women vulnerable, thereby providing them with opportunities aplenty to swoop in and be THE HERO. “We will inspire Bonnie Tyler’s hit single! We will be strong, tough and fresh from the fight! And we will be there ‘til the end of the night!” they chanted. And they cast a spell, an eternal spell upon woman kind. A spell that means all women are now going to forevermore fall into a trance of high pitched shrieks, pleas for masculine help, squeals of fear and sighs of relief when situation in question is solved by said masculine help. Followed by instant gratitude and a softening of the heart towards man who provides said masculine help.

This, girls, is why no matter how hardcore we may believe ourselves to be, we find ourselves hopping daintily from foot to foot on our beds, in our pyjamas, squealing for Dave’s help, begging to be rescued and ending up eternally grateful for The Men, the heroes of our stories.

Afterwards I felt cheap, manipulated by spider, Dave, Cupid’s Gang and Bonnie Tyler – I reprimanded myself for a good 20 minutes whilst trying to focus on One Tree Hill. If I see Cupid’s Gang on the other side, I shall be having a stern word. But for now, I am going to head home to do sit-ups, give myself a pedi’ and crave Ben & Jerry’s.

Being e-loud & the anti of social media

I had an epiphany last night, while pondering the complexity of our social world (something that I have been doing a lot since Spider-gate). It is not an epiphany I am entirely comfortable with.

Here we are. Class of 2010. Absolute gurus (for want of an overused term) in the social sphere. We share entire languages. Thousands of them. We have developed infinite forums of communication just in case we ever run out of ways to let our friends know how marvellously we’re doing. We even, god praise us, liaise with other countries on a daily basis.

Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, MySpace, LinkedIn, mobiles, fax, email, instant messaging, Blackberry messenger, Morse Code… we’ve done it, world! We are the communicators of the Universe!

So why is it, then, that we can’t pass someone we work with in the street without having to hide behind a skip to save ourselves from the dreaded fate of saying “Hello”? Why is it that when someone from the past (or even the present) emerges upon our horizon of the never ending sea of faces we sail each day, that we Freak Out?

I apologise if your one of those tolerant souls who quite happily goes all the way back to the M&S que to say hi to Roger from I.T. You may ignore me. But I.Really Am. Not. I am an Avoider*

We, the Avoiders, are quite happy to accost the local lollipop lady on the zebra crossing, filch her gleaming coat and neon sign, shove her behind a car, silence her with Percy Pigs and pose in her place purely to avoid Archibald, that odd-bod we knew in second year.  There’s nothing wrong with Archibald the odd-bod. It is just far simpler to avoid him than go to go through the obligatory and awkward small talk. Neither of us wants it, so why sign up for it? It is far easier to assail a lollipop lady and write a casual “Heyyyy, sorryyyyy, think I passed you on the street the other day, hope you’re well” on Archibald’s cyber-wall later that evening, from behind the shield of our Macs (Dells).

I’m a sociable being I am. Not a day goes by that I don’t ‘re-connect’ with someone via Facebook, not a walk home am I off my phone, not a diet coke break am I not texting with the hand not in the fridge. BUT when it comes to spending my precious little spare time unnecessarily communicating with those I’ve intended to speak to never again? Spare me!

Interesting, then, that an Avoider like me chooses to begin a career in social media, relentlessly invades the personal cyber space of others and is generally very e-loud. All.day.long.

My epiphany being, then, that we the social media obsessees of our culture aren’t really as sociable as we like to imagine. In fact, it is quite possible we just find it easier to connect with the world virtually coz the physical reality is too damn much. Maybe not so communicative after all?

So next time I am proudly telling the world I work in social media yah yah and I just love communicating yah yah, I will remind myself that actually the more time I am spending ‘communicating’ via various dot.coms, the less time I’m spending bumping into the bloke(s) I (used to) drunk-dial. Maybe not such a bad thing. Hmmm, anti-social media anyone?

*Though an Avoider avoids certain social situations, I must clarify that this is not applicable to run-ins with their nearest and dearest. I Love You ALL.