Herd Mentality

I’ve been binge watching Planet Earth. So far I’ve seen a wolf kill an ox, a shark kill a seal, a seal kill a penguin and global warming kill a polar bear. With the exception of the polar bear all the other animals were picked off from their herd, which got me thinking about our herds.

As much as we try to separate ourselves from animals, we have a lot in common. Being part of a group is one of them. We may no longer need a tribe to hunt, or protect ourselves from wild animals, but having a tribe makes an uncertain world seem less scary. It’s also a seal of approval on who we are and how we live our lives.

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Remember High School?

Even though we don’t depend on the squad for survival in the same way musk ox might, our herd is important to us. Penguins work as a team to survive harsh weather. Lions hunt in prides to take down bigger prey. We lean on our inner circle for support, advice and companionship. But where animals are unified by species and survival, our groups are selected from who’s closest.

Though our main social groups are comprised of whomever we interact with most frequently, there are people that we pick out and maintain friendships with over distance and time. We like to think it’s because there’s something special about them. The reality is a tad more narcissistic. Studies show that friends who support our sense of identity are more likely to be kept around. If you see yourself as a high school prom queen, chances are you’ve surrounded yourself with people who see you the same way.

Our herd reflects who we are, or at least the version of you that you identify most with. If you’ve changed and evolved as a person, it stands to reason that your herd has too. One way or another.

It’s because your herd matters. The right friends can help you to  grow as a person and achieve your potential. Similarly, hanging out with the wrong crowd can limiting. The need for approval and fear of being cast out is powerful. You can get stuck in old patterns and trapped in a version of yourself that isn’t true to who you are. If you’ve ever tried to break up with a friend, you’ll know it can be just as hard as a romantic break up.

If you’re in the right herd you all grow and evolve together. If not then it can be bittersweet. It’s all part of being human. It beats being taken out by a shark, I suppose.

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Social Media Take the Wheel

When you’re in times of trouble, document your rage online.

Daniel was tired. I was tired.

The customer service call was just going round and round in circles. He kept telling me there was nothing he could do. My claim had been rejected. I calmly repeated that by law I was entitled to that refund. The airline had lied.

I’d had a flight cancellation the month before. There’s actually been a surge in cancellations and airlines going bust. Subsequently, consumer rights were being published everywhere.

When my flight from Amsterdam was cancelled at a minutes notice the first thing I’d received was a text from a mate with my rights. The airline gave me a poxy food voucher and the assurance that my hotel and transport would be refunded. My rights would be observed.

As I heard Daniel sigh and repeat once again that there was nothing he could do, I regretted staying so calm. While everyone else grumbled, I remained positive. One jackass in particular, demanded compensation there and then. He practically wanted to be piggy-backed to a hotel and then back to his rescheduled flight.

Clearly that angry little man could see into the future.

A month on my claim had been rejected on the grounds I hadn’t tried hard enough to get help. Unless you’re yelling at someone you’re not trying. I wish I had been as forthright in person as I had been on WhatsApp.

Why is it when you don’t cause trouble people take that as a sign that you’re a pushover? I can be angry. Anyone who knows me knows I got sass coming out…well, my mouth. I just pick my fights.

This was fighting talk.

Providing evidence of something that didn’t happen is like getting home with a new CD and opening it up to find nothing in the case. Vueling was saying I’d already gotten the CD.

This made me want to kerb stomp someone. But before my rage got the better of me, I did what I always do when angry: I took to social media. And that’s when I realised where my evidence was.

I may not have yelled at them to their faces, but I yelled into the void that is the internet. It saved my experience in slideshow mode to be enjoyed as Memories at a later date.

Never before had calling someone fucking useless been so useful. I got to send them every abusive message I’d written on the topic. I even sent them a video. It wasn’t nice.

I just got an email saying they would refund me the total amount.

The next time someone moans about you doing a Facebook you tell them you’re doing the online lord’s work.

Follow me on Instagram to make sure you don’t miss a rant that could potentially be state’s evidence: @BeigeGurl

It’s Everyone’s Problem

 

I’m a people person. Everyone knows this. There’s nothing that warms my heart more than meeting a kindred spirit.  There’s something reassuring about finding another person whom you have something in common with. All it takes are two little words of solidarity to make a large and anonymous world less lonely: Me too.

But when that common ground is a collective experience of harassment and abuse we all need to pay attention. Men and women. This isn’t a random phenomenon like the sky turning yellow. This is an indicator of the extent of harassment, aggression and assault within our society. And it needs to change.

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We’re no longer living in an age where a man can drag his chosen woman back to the cave. But it’s an age where a guy can show you his dick, make you feel unsafe on your journey home and violate your personal space with little or no fear of retribution.

Harvey Weinstein’s outing as a sexual predator has reignited a polemical outpouring in the media on an age old issue. But whether this will lead to any real change in male attitudes and society’s treatment of women is yet to be seen. Let’s not forget that only a year ago the pussy grabbing President of the USA  was caught on camera bragging about his ‘conquests’. That bombshell didn’t stop him getting elected. What was also troubling was it didn’t stop women from voting for him.

Who’s responsible?

It angers me that a discussion on harassment and assault is inevitably dragged back to the role the victims have to play in the situation. Let’s be clear, there’s one problem here and that’s the predatory males victimising and manipulating women. However, every time something like this comes out women are asked to reassess what it is we’re doing that’s driving the boys crazy.

Donna Karan’s mindless rhetoric in the wake of the Weinstein allegations raised more than an eyebrow. Was a woman whose fortune had been made selling sexy clothes and perfume to women really implying that women were asking for it? Ok, she took it back. She was jet lagged. Some of her best friends are women. We get it. But why does this argument always come back to how women act?

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Mayim Bialik’s op-ed in The New York Times is also problematic. A well educated actress and feminist, familiar with Hollywood, Bialik’s editorial reads like the cautionary tale of how awkward looks and demure dress sense steered her safe of sexual predators. Though she takes care not to do a Donna, and tell women they’re dressing too sexually, I wonder why she feels the need to highlight her opinion (after all it’s only an opinion) that her own looks had spared her the horrors of harassment. I always thought she was pretty.

Bialik’s insinuation that the pretty ones are the one’s getting harassed and assaulted is reductive. It’s why the Me Too status started. To show this a problem that happens to women. Period. Bialik’s focus on women building their esteem away from their appearance overlooks the way girls are sexualised by strange men every day. Whether they want to be or not. And in doing so it implies it’s the job of women to control men’s behaviour.

I won’t disagree that there is more to a woman than her looks. Indeed, a woman’s worth doesn’t lie in her push up bra and contour kit. But I don’t understand how a sexual predator’s actions have brought us to an after school special on female self esteem and worth. There is something patronising about the idea that a plainer gal, who models herself on Eleanor Roosevelt, would never be subjected to such misfortunes. It’s simply untrue.

People need to stop thinking this is the curse of the beautiful or provocative. This is a problem endemic to our society.  This doesn’t just happen to certain women. And it’s not a woman’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem and staying silent on the matter, ignoring it or trying to cover it up won’t get rid of it. The onus to change things isn’t only on women, it’s on men too.

#MeToo #HimThough #HowIWillChange

Signs of Singledom

Being single comes with unique characteristics

“Are you single?”

In the right context, it’s a promising question. It was half term Friday. I was mid-ludicrous story and being loud and drunk, when a relative stranger inquired into my relationship status. All it took were these four words to turn that my smile into my ‘I wish I could stab you with my eyes’ look:

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What the hell does ‘single’ look like? Say it!

“I can see why.”

You’ve seen it in movies when someone says the wrong thing; the scratch of vinyl as a record comes to an abrupt halt. That pin drop silence.

What the fuck did he mean by that?

Am I single because of my behaviour? Was he implying I had no choice in being single?

No, he meant it in the good way. There’s a good way. The “No man could handle you!” way.

It was fast becoming clear to me that this guy a) had archaic notions about the liveliness of a woman being directly proportional to how likely she is to be available and b) wanted to be kicked in the crotch.

I didn’t get it. He was recently divorced. (You can see why. I mean that in the good way.) He didn’t fall into his own labelling system. Perhaps marriage had made him docile and lacking in personality, thus more likely to take a bride.

Maybe he was onto something though. What if I do have distinguishing features that set me apart from women more likely to take a groom/partner?

I used to think I was a fun loving, alcohol abusing, wiseass. Little did I know I was manifesting the symptoms of being single and incapable of being domesticated.

Perhaps single people everywhere are subtly evolving. Currently we have the ability to be shown a genital shot at any time without flinching. Eventually, I’ll have evolved physically to have extra long arms, so I can zip up my own dresses.

Lord knows I can already eat a meal for two by myself.

One day in the future, we’ll all develop a Tinder shaped birthmark about our person that will fade along with our personalities when we meet our match. You know, the one who is out there, somewhere, waiting (knowing my luck, in the bushes).

Maybe then people won’t ask me stupid questions and waste my hard earned drinking time.

Photography credit: http://www.gratisphotography.com

Situationships

Just keep on walking buddy, you’re not getting another run at this.

Every now and then a guy I’d completely forgotten about will resurface on my whatsapp or chat.

You know the type. The ones who send a mandatory maintenance text that outwardly says ‘sup’ but means ‘I haven’t forgot you, we could still hook up. These never ending situationships that went nowhere have started boomeranging back in the form of monosyllabic text reminders of the fuck ton of bad choices I once made, which now baffle me.

I appear to have dated an array of sexual opportunists and emotional parasites who have hoped the relationship door will be left ajar on the off chance they get locked out of a opportunity with a girl they actually like. Luckily, I can now identify a waste of time in under 10 characters, a tragic but necessary life skill, like being able to find your way home drunk.

It took me years to realise I had to stop responding. Screw being polite. I wasn’t bitter, or in my feelings, I just didn’t want to massage the ego of some guy who was clearly getting some relationship karma coming back his way.

These men had gotten all the time out of me that they were going to. If I was going to spend anymore of my time frivolously, I’d rather waste 20 pokeballs trying to catch an angry Seadra, than maintain intermittent contact with someone who lacks both common courtesy and the ability to send a witty text.

Despite this move in the right direction, I did not live happily ever after.

Much like the elusive bus that only appears when you light a cigarette, the minute you stop bothering with some guys they rematerialise with added emojis.sex-love-life-2014-10-text-from-ex-main

Really? You were thinking of me? If you want to get all nostalgic, try having a wank over your mum’s Mary Kay catalogue, or watch The Goonies. Don’t assume some type of emotional vigil is being held for you by an old flame. You’re getting in touch with a practical stranger who (if they’re me) will ask you to lose their number.

I refuse to assist any more guys in any delusion that I may be the one that got away, or that I’d spent years at a window, Jane Eyre style before wandering the moors to find them. I am not that girl. The only time I patiently wait by the window is when I have an ASOS delivery coming. This tends to be the standard response when you don’t talk to someone for 3 years after messing them around for months.

Case in point: The Colombian. He didn’t want to date me then disappeared online before he ghosted my texts. Yet years later, in his mind all it took was a simple ‘Hey’ to get us back on track. Here’s some free advice: if you plan to resurrect a relationship via text get a thesaurus. Only Jesus can get away with a casual ‘Hey’. and even that was only after three days. I hadn’t seen this guy in 2 years.

What followed was more monosyllabic inane small talk and thinly veiled enquiries about my relationship status which culminated in him asking me to fly out to see him in Colombia. The only response I could think of that fit was LOL. He did not take this well.He ranted on about how I obviously didn’t care and to forget he’d said anything.

Guess what? I didn’t care. He had texted me while I was happily eating Jaffa cakes in a dick free zone. His irritating wounded act ruined a perfectly lovely afternoon.

A month later I got another ‘Hey’ and a life update. Now he’d moved to Mexico and wanted to know whether there was a chance I’d be moving there, or was I still mad at him (because clearly it was my irrational female anger stopping me from uprooting my life to Mexico for a guy who was a dick). I’ve never found block and delete quicker in my life.

To the horrified male friends who have messaged to ask what the ‘poor guy’ had done wrong, allow me to clarify my position: I’ve got nothing against exes getting in touch. Just don’t do it if you were a douche who is now feeling sorry for himself. Definitely don’t interrupt a woman during biscuit time.

It’s a mobile phone, not a time machine. Move on.

Biological Duty

Having a womb isn’t a good enough reason to have kids

I once dated a guy who informed me it was my biological duty to have children.

Yes. He said that.

Think of my uterus, if you would, as a bread maker that came with my ‘kitchen’.

The kitchen is great, but wouldn’t it be more of a kitchen if there was a rising heap of dough in that breadmaker? Wouldn’t that bread make me happier in the long run?

I mean you can’t have a breadmaker and not use it.

How am I still meeting people in this century who have this take on females and procreation?

I was never someone whose womb wrenched when she held a child, nor have I longed to feel life grow inside me. I’ve always been happy to hand a baby back, and get a burrito.

I’ve had the occasional flash panic, and stood in front of the freezer section in Sainsbury’s, frantically texting friends about embryo storage, whilst cooling my ovaries. But it was no bigger a panic than the undercut/no undercut dilemma of 2014.

I love the little humans.

Not because I have a uterus, but because I find them amazing. The incessant questioning, stubbornness, creativity and boundless energy is something I’m on board with.

We get on well.

As a result, I’m often told to have some of my own. Funny, because I’m also told I’m great with pets, but that ‘A puppy is for life, not just for Christmas’ campaign really did a job on folks. That’s something I should consider carefully.

I’m at that age where all my friends have had, or are having children. Some as I type. I am often told there is nothing like the joy of motherhood. That it’s the best thing I’ll ever do.

I think a more realistic description is that motherhood is a completely different kind of experience from those I have had to date. No one is making it look like ‘the best thing’ when they are wrestling a pound of ‘pick n mix’ out of a screaming child’s hand, handling a flooded bathroom, or being bitten.

My trip to Vegas measures up better.

That being said, the love my friends have for their children is contagious. Their relationships are rewarding. The way their children love them is moving. Good people are being raised in the world and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

But from a distance.

For me.

For now.

 

D-sensitised

I think I am 95% desensitised to penis.

When I was younger and I used to worry that my enjoyment of uber violent films meant that I could find myself in a Die Hard style scenario, and would simply sellotape a pen knife to my back and throw myself into the mix without batting an eyelid.

It was a theory that was somewhat proven when I got held up at gunpoint a few years back.

I refused to give the gunman my bag without some kind of negotiation. My companions had either cleverly shoved their mobile phones into their knickers, or peremptorily handed over their bags, while I rued the day I decided to wear a dress and no underwear, whilst clutching onto my shopping.

The gunman told me not to be an idiot. But why change the habit of a lifetime?

“Because he could have shot you.” The police officer sternly informed me, surprisingly unimpressed by the fact I managed to save my purchases.

I was pretty sure the gun was fake. I’d seen plenty of guns. On screen. The officer kindly unholstered his gun and asked me if it had looked like that. Hmm, his looked fake too.

Whoops.

Penis has become guns for me.

And it’s all thanks to online flashers.

The threat of the 80s flasher, accessorised in a  filthy mac, bumbling his way towards you, then whipping open his coat and waggling his willy at you, has now been brought into the digital age.

The sexual ambush that I have been subjected to on dating apps though amusing, is also quite disturbing. When did it become acceptable to send someone an unsolicited picture of your genitals? Or even worse, a video of you vigorously abusing said genitals?

The idea that you have ‘earned’ viewing rights to the horniness you unwittingly inspired is not as flattering as the sender thinks it is.

If someone tried to flash you in public it would be considered indecent to most.  But social media functions like a blanket of anonymity  for flashers to disappear into once someone hits report, block and delete.

There are no real consequences, other than the reduced chances of offenders ever getting to communicate with that person beyond a screen.

I, for one, don’t want to be sent another surreptitious picture of a penis in an “Oh my gosh you’ll never guess what my dick did….’ fashion again.

If I ever see one in real life again, I’m only going to think it’s fake.