21 April, 2014

20 Reasons Being Short is Ace

In days gone by, the media has portrayed height as an attractive quality in a woman. Bond girls are always leggy. In the movies, taller woman are portrayed as powerful and intimidating in a sexy way – Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man, Angelina Jolie in everything – whilst the more petite actresses tend to play cute and silly roles. Natalie Portman was cast as the playful, unstable, needy but a bit adorable waif in Closer, and although she was portrayed as sexy in a cute way, it was the statuesque Julia Roberts who took the opposing dominating, self-sufficient temptress role. In the fashion world, catwalk models are required to be between 5’8 and 6ft, with rare exceptions. This may be because height makes for a better clothes horse, but the message is still the same – tall is attractive.

Apparently Hollywood now digitally stretches actresses, to give them more length (sorry boys, Margot Robbie’s legs in Wolf of Wall Street are not actually that long). So is it any wonder we mini mortals don heels for a night out. We have learnt that height is sexier and although in reality men and women find all sorts of shapes and sizes attractive, the media has taught me and my kind that there is something inherently less sexy about being squat.

I am not that small, so I am not writing from Elfin Camp here, but I am the upper end of ‘short’ – coming in at a fairly spherical 5’3 my perceived shortness tends to be in the eye of the beholder. I definitely do look miniature when stood amongst my 5’8 friends and I was always sat at the front for class photos, but I still qualify for most rides at Disneyland so it can’t be that extreme. 

Although I have been called short-ass at school, I have to bring the chair right up to the steering wheel to drive, and people literally look down on me; being my height has never troubled me. Except so say that I do feel less sexy than most of my taller friends and I do find people somehow take you less seriously when you are little. I look a bit like the cat from Shrek when I wear knee-high boots, which sort of says it all.

This said, in recent years petite icons – Kylie, Eve Longoria, Hayden Panetteier, Kim Kardashian – have made short (and curvy) sexy, so it sort of feels okay to walk around the petite section proudly now, instead of shopping at 8pm for fear of the tall section mocking us and our undersized phalanges, as they lounge about gracefully in maxi dresses. As well as this, I have always looked on the bright side of being short and I think I enjoy it, because it really does have its own compensations and sometimes it’s awesome.

What do you love about your height?


20 Reasons Why We Love Being Short

1. People just assume we are cute, and when we put our hair in bunches they are putty in our tiny hands.

2. We tend to look younger. Smallness is associated with youth, so it isn’t uncommon for us to still get given the crayons in Pizza Hut. Score!

3. We can curl up in train seats, aeroplane chairs, boxes . Leg room? Not. A. Problem.

4. Finding a seat. I am a great person to catch a train with because I wangle a seat every time, even in rush hour. We just queue politely, look small, then nip between the gaps like a terrier and be the first to a window, table, plug socket seat FACING FORWARDS.

5. Tall men are easy to find, even if it does strain our necks. For some women, we prefer our partners to be taller than us – it makes us feel feminine, protected and, well, cute. Obviously the shorter a lady you are, the greater the selection of taller-than-you men. Sorry not sorry, tall girls.

6. We get sent to the front of gigs. There is this random short-person etiquette at shows that doesn’t exist anywhere else. “Excuuuuse me, make a gap, short-ass coming through”, and the next thing you know you’re crowd surfing your way towards The Lumineers. Hey-ho!

7. Our limbs are a party trick. Yes we can’t reach the cocktails but look at our teeny hands! And who wants to be the first to pack me into an Ikea bag?

8. Kids clothes. Topshop’s petite section is left sweating in its over-priced knitwear when we head over to New Look and discover that we can buy the same clothes in kid’s sizes. For HALF THE PRICE.

9. CHEAP SHOES. If you are short and your feet are in proportion then you should be able to pick up a kids shoe for equal the style and half the price. They go up to size 5 don’t you know! (If your feet are still large despite your shorter frame, this a great tool for the prevention of falling over).

10. Limbo? Bring it on. We win every time.

11. We also rock at Hide & Seek.

12. Bed space. If like me you need your space to sleep, then sharing a bed is not a problem. Even when we are splayed out like a starfish we are still miles away from our partner.

13. You get to sit in the middle. Why small people are traditionally packed into the middle of a busy car I don’t know, but I have had hours of fun playing milk bottles.

14. We get our own step. This is used for reaching the cupboards and other domestic duties like dusting the top of the TV. It may have been designed for kids to use in the bathroom, but I love my special step.

15. We are exactly eye level with cakes in shop windows – all the better to ogle them.

16. Pick me, pick me! We all love getting picked up, and we get picked up a LOT.

17. Our heads aren’t cut off in mirrors and photos.

18. Every walk is a workout. Most of my friends are taller than me, so a trip to town, a walk round the shops and the stretch between bars gets out heart rate up as we amble to keep up with you. It may be tiring, but calories = burnt.

19. It’s arguably okay to crawl up the stairs, even when you aren’t drunk/hungover. Our legs just find them difficult okay?!

20. We enjoy it when you take our food and make us reach for it, or pretend you can’t see us as you look over our heads. You’ve been doing it for years but we still giggle uncontrollably every time.

20 April, 2014

A Little Chaos is Good for the Soul

It seems to me, a happy life is one which has found the balance between living for the moment and planning for the future. Sounds obvious? Maybe it is in principle, but in reality it’s really bloody hard to put into practice. On the one hand we know that living in the moment is key to living 'fully', but at the same time we live by all these ruddy rules, rules which dictate our future. How do we know when to stop being sensible and start living, or when to take off our party shoes and hoover the oven?

It’s taken me years to find balance. YEARS. Being a bit “all or nothing”, I can usually be found in either total disarray (I am happy to say it is a long while since this was the case) or living a life so pristine you can barely see me without squinting. I’d say round about now the balance is pretty good, if anything I’ve worked so hard to find my equilibrium that sometimes I forget to just drop the ball, stomp of pitch and forget about what comes next. We all need that from time to time, but it is easier said than done.

There is no denying that right now my days are pretty disciplined – the gym, work, healthy meals, lists, early nights, meditation, hobbies, chores and a little room for fun and love. Barely a dentist appointment goes missed and it sends me into sheer panic if I ever have to cross something out in my Filofax. It looks so messy and THIS WAS NOT IN THE PLAN. I’m a first class student at being organised and “good”, so much so that I really struggle to let go. Ever. I have spent my mid-twenties doing a full 180. In place of chaos there is order, and with it so much tension in my back.

Obviously I love this lifestyle, otherwise I wouldn’t live it. I am healthier in every way and a better person for it. Gone is the stack of unopened post warning me of my financial troubles, gone is my wine gut and matching headache, gone is the overuse of dry shampoo because I never had time to wash my hair. My bank balance is Black-ish, my house is pretty, my bed is well slept in and my even my toe nails are sparkly. The view is definitely far better from this side – I’m strong, I’m fulfilled and I no longer live a life in fear of debt collectors - but I am tired. 

This has been very apparent to me this week, when I’ve been enjoying a week off work. A week filled with indulgence, celebrations, city breaks, treats and all the things I spend most of my normal life wishing for. It has been a most wonderful week, but I have found it harder than ever to sleep-in, switch-off and just Carpe that Diem. This problem has crept up on me over the past few years – it’s like the tighter I run my ship, the less I have been able to just go where the tide takes me. I’ve been waking up at 6am ON MY DAYS OFF, feeling restless, itching to fill my time with productivity. When you put yourself under so much pressure in your day to day life, it takes time to loosen up again. Yesterday I finally slept in, a full 7 days after breaking up from work; it should not take that long to unclench.

From the outside it looks easy, like when we’re stressed and wound up all we need to do is take the pressure off ourselves, sit down and eat an ice cream. That may be true, but it isn’t that simple when there is a deeper driving force behind all those little choices we make in a day. For me, part of the reason I live as vigilantly as I do now is I'm a tiny bit terrified of going ever going back to stormier seas. I have been there and I didn’t like it. I am all out of buoyancy aids and anyway the calm looks good on me.

The world doesn’t help people like me. The uptight ones, the worriers, the real life Claire Dunphys. Pressure is chasing us all the time, wherever it may come from, and there is so much choice nowadays that if you are even remotely unsure of yourself you can end up in a tizz pretty quickly. I am mainly sure of me and my direction, I know what I want and I don’t ever compare my life to anybody else’s, but I have been known in my most obsessive moments to spend an hour agonising over whether to go for a run, or choosing between walking and the bus. I hear myself deliberating over such small things and I think for the love of god woman it’s a run not a face transplant. Working (and playing) in Social Media doesn’t always help either. As much as I clearly love it, all our tweeting, posting and gramming encourages us to switch on, and on, and on, and on...

I’m happy to have finally switched off for long enough to enjoy Easter, but we can’t always rely on a week of massages and mini-breaks to reach this level of reprieve. Some day to day changes need to be made. I don’t plan on throwing out my whole routine, obviously, because it really works for me and I kinda love (and need) my job, but I do want to start thinking a little bit less about tomorrow. It is good to make choices that tomorrow us will be grateful for, in fact I think that is essential, but I also think sometimes we can just ignore the ‘should’ part of our mind and give in to the wine or sack off the gym (I know, edgy), let some chaos colour our lives. Last week I had a hangover for the first time in 2 months and although I woke up with crisps in the bed, a messy house, and a liver begging me not to start all this nonsense again, I kind of enjoyed the disarray, because I knew this time it was happy disarray, and a scene of chaos I this time could control.

So much of our time has already been dictated for us that sometimes we really need to throw caution to the wind, let our hair down, paint the town Red, kick up our heels, and do all the other footloose and fancy-free clich├ęs that we don’t really understand, because as much as being sensible is good, sometimes you need to feed your inner child or that child will DIE. On that note, which Easter Egg shall I eat first?


14 April, 2014

Turning 28: A Decade of Life Lessons

This week I am turning twenty-eight, an age which feels so alien to me. Birthdays naturally cause me to reflect on my life, and the perceived progress I have made with each year that goes by. ‘Progress’ is a word commonly used to consider how we’re doing in life, but this year I wonder if progress is really what it is? As I’ve gotten older I’ve gradually stop seeing life as something linear, a stretch of time plotted with various goals, and instead I view it as a collage of Polaroids, isolated moments which fall together to create one life. Measurements are often linear, but the linearity of time is just a perception; what is real is each moment as we feel it. Instead of thinking about what I have achieved and when, I try to feel the value of my life based on how I live it. 

My 20s have been one huge learning curve for me, as setting up my own life away from the nest has taught me so much more about myself and the world around me than I ever imagined I would need to know - you never learn more than when you are thrown in at the deep end, life asking you to sink or swim. As such, the past 10 years have been a real education for me, and a much more useful education than the one I received at school.

I was lucky to have been academic at school, I was good at things like Maths and spelling, and I knew how to excel in exams. Because of how the schooling system measures and judges us, I grew up believing myself to be “good” at things (apart from anything Musical, sooo bad at Music) and was used to just ‘doing well’. When you grow up being told you are top of the class, seeing As on essays and generally being rewarded, you kind of believe you are just good at life. Don’t get me wrong, I have never been arrogant, but it was definitely a shock to my ego when aged 18 I was catapulted into University life only to discover that knowing the square route of 64 didn’t help me find my rhythm. Life skills are a whole different ball game. Yes, I was equipped enough to cook for myself and do my laundry and bash out essays at the speed of light, but I lacked some things that were even more crucial. I lacked innate confidence, I lacked a sense of myself and I lacked the ability to make the most of what life had given me.

No-one is born knowing everything, ready for anything. No-one. We spend our whole lives learning, and it would be arrogant to assume we know everything now. I’ve always felt it is okay to still be learning, to hold your hand up when you don’t know something and to keep an inquisitive mind. So when life knocked me sideways when I left home, when I spent years struggling to find my swagger, I kept an open-heart and learnt what I could in order to do things better. With this open heart, I discovered what tools I need to get by, and then I picked those tools up and carved out a happier life for myself, as well as a more confident me.

Although I have been learning every day, and although I could not even begin to explain the magnitude of what I have learnt in the 10 years since I left home, there are certain moments, certain snapshots in my memory, which have been hugely pivotal to me - momentous additions to my set of life skills which have ultimately changed the course of my life forever. These snapshots include some snippets of advice from loved ones, an article, a song...I have learnt from everything around me and hope I continue to do so. 

Thank you to everyone who has taught me the things I needed to, and continues to do so every day.  We are all on a journey, we are all learning all the time, and we all need to learn different things. I find that the more open your heart and the more willing you are to learn from people around you – even if those people are very different to you – the happier you can become.  

I am turning 28 feeling so happy and excited for the future, but more than that I feel so so blessed.  I am happy not because life is perfect, of course it is not, but because I spent years learning from some very important lessons, and I've kept my heart and mind open enough to learn them.

Here are some of my most potent lessons from the last decade – what have been your biggest life lessons?


 “The Key to Life is Balance”

Just before he died, my Grandad talked to me about his time in India, where he travelled after having his heart broken. During this talk, he said these 6 wise words to me and I can honestly say they have never left my mind. I am naturally reckless and extreme, and didn't ascend into the world with much natural stability, so he knew these words would help me remember to find more balance. I never stop thanking him for that.

“Think of someone you admire, someone who you feel has a life you would be happy in – and ask yourself, would they behave like this? No, they wouldn’t. Start behaving like the person you want to be, and the rest will follow.”

One of my longest standing friends said this to me when I was at one of my many rock bottoms, aged about 22. I had woken up after yet another hideously messy night out, feeling terrible, with my phone full of calls to bad-for-me boys who didn’t want to know. The rejection, the booze, the shame and the loneliness overwhelmed me – I called my friend at 10am on a Sunday, with no hope in my heart, and she said these words to me. The next day I started my blog and began investing energy in things which would bring me positivity.

“You have all the tools you need, all the resources anyone could need, to be happy.”

This is to quote my wise father, during a conversation with him when I was about 22 and mainly miserable. I didn’t like my life at that time, mainly because I wasn’t happy enough in myself to enjoy it, but also I just didn’t enjoy my day to day life. I was working in HR admin in a role that didn’t stimulate my creativity, I was living in my student house still with people who did not compliment me, I was hugely unfulfilled and wondered what had happened to the confident, creative person I’d had the potential to be. This was my Dad reminding me how blessed I am, and encouraging me to make the most of what I have been given. I started job hunting the next day and found my career.

“Somewhere Out There”

This was an article in Cosmopolitan January 2011, by a talented and funny writer, Rosie Mullender. I read this in December 2010, aged 24, when I was by this point a happier girl than I had been. I had a career I mainly enjoyed, I‘d found running and writing which both fulfilled me and brought me strength. What I didn’t have was a partner. I had been single for 5 years and was horribly lonely. Then I read this eye-opening article by Ms Mullender, in which she reflected on her single status and how she would feel on New Year’s Eve, welcoming another year alone. I could relate to the article, but what inspired me about it was that she did not pity herself, she enjoyed herself. She was excited about the unknown, rather than scared, she knew she was loveable, and she was so excited that she still had all the beauty of Love ahead of her. It was like flicking a switch. I went from feeling like I needed a man to validate me, to realising I had the world at my feet and feeling excited about the future. I was more confident, I felt attractive, I was a light not a shadow – for the first time in a long time I knew that when I did meet someone, I would be more than worthy. From that day on I lived to enjoy myself, I opened my heart up to different people and 6 months later I met my Gareth.

“It’s all about how much you value yourself now. If you let others get to you, that’s exactly what they’ll do. You can’t change the way they behave but you can do something about the way you react."

One day when I was feeling particularly blue, I read this in my stars. Whether or not you believe in Astrology, this comment was undoubtedly true. I read this by chance and realised what a weak, pathetic person I had been being. I had gone through an intense time with a group of so-called friends who treated me terribly. I had in that process lost my little self-worth. I read this horoscope and it was like I saw myself from an outside point of view. I couldn’t believe my own behaviour and I was so mad at myself for letting anyone treat me like less than my worth. I’d like to say I cut them out that day and never looked back, but I didn’t. I did start the process though, and 4 years down the line and I have nothing to do with those people, but I can’t quite believe how consumed I was in their web of malice, or how long I put up with it for. It is safe to say I take very little crap these days, and instead of getting mad at people, I try to just move on when someone scorns me. Life is far, far too short to spend it with anyone who makes you feel anything less than you are. I am kind, I am bright and I am strong, if anyone ever fails to see that in me now then they ain’t worth a dime.

'Every Step' by Charlie Winston

I first heard this song at a gig in Shoreditch in 2009. The song is about a girl who does not value herself with men, who has a history of boys treating her badly, but ultimately it is her own fault for holding herself in such low esteem. The song also recalls how happiness is a mood you choose, based on all the little choices you make in a day. This really hit home to me. For several years I had let myself down with men and had huge voids in my self-respect. Family and friends had tried to help me break this pattern, but sometimes it takes something objective to do the job. I heard this song and it made me cry, but it also was the kick up the backside I needed. Why did I think I was going to find the love I deserved by making such stupid decisions day in and day out? At the time I ran back stage to beg Charlie to release the song and I vowed to try to live by my new understanding that every single step I took, every single choice, every ounce of energy I put into anything would dictate my ultimate destination. It took a few years for me to become well practised at this, but by summer 2010 I was so much better and once I felt like I’d earned it, I had ‘Every Step’ tattooed onto my right foot. My choices haven’t been perfect since then, but whenever I feel myself slipping I have it there as a reminder to invest in positive things and continue to take positive steps.

“You Lack Verve”

Not everything we learn from is inherently positive, and I have learnt from some very negative experiences too. Someone not very nice once said this to me, when we were drunk on yet another blurry night out, and at the time I just took it and assumed it to be true. But over the years I have remembered that comment. Now I know I don’t 'lack verve', I never lacked verve; I have energy and creativity in abundance. What I lacked was a positive direction in which to channel my energy. It wasn’t long after hearing this that I started running, blogging, baking and just generally channelling my sparkly self into positive, creative things. So thank you to the person who said that to me. You have helped me to make so much more of myself, even though at the time you were just being a right royal twat.