Tag Archives: sex

Broken Windows

Since injuring my back at the gym on Sunday, I’ve had to take it easy. This means not doing my usual workout routine. And it’s been hard. I joined the gym in January and, while I signed up because I enjoy exercising and sweating and being healthy, I’ve also delighted in toning up, wearing tighter outfits and having people tell me that I look amazing. Who wouldn’t, right?

Part of me knew that I shouldn’t put too much value on my physical appearance. It’s dangerous attaching how good you’re feeling to something so transient. And another part of me told myself to relish it while it lasted. Which may also be saying something about an unconscious belief that good things don’t last very long. But that’s another day’s work (or blog post).

So, I haven’t been able to hit the gym this week and I noticed my mood dipping a little. I started wearing looser clothing as though I’d gained weight in just a few days. Another reason for feeling out of sorts was that I’d been, quite literally, stopped in my tracks. I had to accept the situation and understand that these things happen for a reason. There was a learning here somewhere (lots of lessons, in fact) if I were to cease feeling sorry for myself long enough to go looking.

Gretchen Rubin writes about the “broken windows theory” of policing, which holds that when a society tolerates minor crimes such as broken windows, graffiti and drinking in public, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes. Rubin suggests that this can also be true on a personal level. These are the signs of disorder that make you feel out of control and overwhelmed. For me, they are not leaving the house all day, not getting my class preparation done and not exercising. Rubin says that enforcing small signs of order makes us feel more in control and happier.

The theory makes sense and it’s great to get things done and to look after yourself. However, this does not mean being rigid. Sometimes, we have to let go of control or we’ll end up miserable. Life happens. We cannot base our happiness on how we think we should look or on how much exercise we feel we should be getting. If we have too many “broken windows” and those shattered panes are destroying our inner peace, we need to look at building the inner peace and self-love and to hell with the windows for a while.

This week, I’ve been watching TV series GirlsThe main character is a 24-year-old writer who’s carrying a bit of extra weight. She gets lots of men and struts around naked. The more I’m watching, the more I’m used to seeing a fleshier actress. This goes to show that the more exposed we are to skinny celebrities, the more we believe that this is the way we all should look. It’s refreshing to watch a show where the characters’ appearances are a little more normal. Even the sexiest female character has a bit of belly and often doesn’t wear a scrap of makeup. And she’s still a beauty. A natural one.

In one of the episodes, leading lady Hannah admits that she’s just like everyone else, that she wants to be happy. That she feels alone. And that she’d been trying to control the way things happened and how she was feeling. Isn’t that why we do what we do in life? To feel happier, less alone and more in control? Why we diet and exercise? Why we purchase new clothes and cut our hair? Why we study for exams and work? Why we save money and buy houses? Why we search for partners and start families?

But beneath the need for happiness, connection and control is a longing for love. And where better to begin than with yourself? Just because. No only-whens and only-ifs. Unconditional love. If you had that, you wouldn’t need to do anything, have anything or control anything. It wouldn’t disappear as soon as your job or relationship ended. It wouldn’t crumble when you gained weight or grew older. It wouldn’t elude you until you had a house and a successful career. It would be a part of you always. It is you. You’ve just forgotten. It’s already there. And it strengthens with use. Today, instead of going to the gym, I choose to exercise my unconditional love. It’s tougher than any workout but the reward makes it so worthwhile.

im not beautiful like you

The Strangeness of Strangers

I’ve just added a Fiction section to the blog. Hope you enjoy the first entry…

She comes with a spasm and thumping feet. And suddenly, she’s crying; all teeth and lips turned inside-out, with wrinkled forehead and scrunched-up, leaking eyes. In this moment, he sees everything she hadn’t wanted anyone to see.

Her mascara zigzags down her face. She thinks it’s waterproof. He doesn’t tell her otherwise. She’ll know when she next looks in the mirror. Plus, he likes the way the smudged charcoal emphasises the light green of her eyes. He prefers it to the previously controlled sweep of eyeliner. However, the total abandon she’s just displayed has made him uncomfortable. He wanted to fuck her, not find out what’s wrong with her.

“Sorry,” she breathes into his neck. She doesn’t want eye contact so she holds him tight. He’s still on top of her. His chest is squashing her breasts. He doesn’t ask her if she’s okay. He hopes his presence is enough. He’ll tell his mates he got the ride but only after they drag it out of him. He’s not a total asshole.

He wants to leave. Or at least roll off her. But he’s been raised better than that. He will make sure to thank her and take her number. She hopes he’ll ask to see her again. Not because she likes him. Because she’s a woman. And if he doesn’t call, she’ll feel used and rejected. She used and rejected him as soon as she orgasmed. She just doesn’t know it.

She smoothes the hair at the back of his neck. He doesn’t have a secure job. And he isn’t as toned as she’d like. Neither is she but she’s criticised herself for long enough. It’s someone else’s turn. He longs to leave. She aches to be left alone but hopes he wants to stay. So they lie there hugging, pretending a closeness they think they should feel after bumping genitals.

Dying at the hands of Yes

It’s a pretty dramatic title but every time you say “yes” to doing something you don’t want to do, you’re killing off a part of yourself. You’re telling yourself that you’re not important, that you won’t listen to your wants and needs, and that you don’t value your own opinion.

Take note of how many times you’re asked to do things over the course of one day. It’s mind-boggling. Please come to my party. Will you do my fake tan for me? Could you collect me from the airport? I need you to work late tonight. Would you mind covering my shift on Saturday? Could you baby sit on Friday night? Would you like to go to London this weekend? Do you wanna go for coffee/lunch/dinner/drinks???? You’d gladly do most of these things because you want to help/be nice/have fun. But you simply cannot do all of them, unless you have endless reserves of time, money, energy, and patience.

You must train yourself to pick and choose what you say “yes” to. And, even more importantly, learn how to say “no”. At first, this will be alien to you, so you may have to employ the white lie tactic. You’ll worry that your friends and family will hate or disown you. Realistically, they probably won’t like the new you very much. They certainly won’t recognise this strange creature who puts herself first. Who does she think she is?! But they’ll soon get used to the fact that you have a life and that you’re not willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice.

Learning to say “no” (without feeling guilty) will soon start coming naturally to you because you respect yourself and value your health and happiness. And you’ll find that the less you do of the things you “should”, and the more you do of the things you actually want to, the more present you’ll be and the more you’ll enjoy things. And when you decide to help out your nearest and dearest, you’ll be doing it because you want to, and not just out of guilt. Your loved ones will sense a change in you. You’ll be less tired and cranky, your eyes will sparkle, and you’ll laugh more. As a result, people will appreciate your company even more.

Peer pressure is one of the darker sides of not being able to say “no”. Many’s the teenager who starts smoking, drinking, taking drugs, mitching off school, and even bullying other kids because of peer pressure, and because they feel they have to say “yes” to be accepted.

I had the awful habit of saying “yes” to everyone and everything. I wanted to be liked, to be nice, to be cool, and I had (and still do, to a certain extent) the reckless (now more carefree) mentality of Ah sure, why not?! This was particularly evident in my interactions with the opposite sex. I agreed to dates with guys I wasn’t sure I fancied. And things went further than I was ready for on more than one occasion.

Once, I was so drunk that I kissed a guy, then spent the rest of the night hugging the toilet bowl. The persistent fella managed to obtain my phone number from a mutual friend and proceeded to ask me out the following day. I could hardly remember what he looked like and I didn’t even know if I liked him, but I felt bad for ditching him. So I agreed to a date. And then to another and another and another. A few months later, I’d convinced myself that I liked him, even though he was bitter and negative and we fought constantly. Thankfully, it didn’t work out.

Now, I only say “yes” to the things I think I’d enjoy, or to the things I have the energy for. I do what feels right for me. Last summer, I thought long and hard about the type of break I wanted. I decided that a relaxing sun holiday in my father’s homeland, with my mother and my sister, was just what I needed.

Antiparos, Greece

Read on for some strategies for getting out of the clutches of Yes:

1) Ask yourself some serious questions

If you find yourself agreeing to help your second cousin twice removed move house, even though you’d packed the car for a trip to the sea-side, and you haven’t seen the woman in 15 years, and she has the largest couch ever known to man, and you put your back out just last week, you need to ask yourself why you’re such a “yes man”. Is it because you desperately need everyone to like you? Is being seen to be nice that important? Are you afraid of becoming a bad person? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, your self-esteem is need of a serious makeover.

2) Let go

If you’re the one who can always be counted upon to say “yes” to every request, plea, and invitation, you’re pretty much guaranteed pain and discomfort. You may observe a tight ball forming in your middle, which is the hurt and disappointment, anger and resentment that’s been building up over the years. You may not even be aware of this but you’re furious that your friends and family are constantly making demands on your time and energy. I’m always running rings around myself for them. And the one time I ask for something, they can’t even bother themselves to help me! They are so selfish! If this sounds familiar, you’ve been a “yes man” for way too long. Just because you don’t think enough of yourself to say “no” once in a while, doesn’t mean that everyone else is such a doormat. Luckily for them. We usually get angriest at people for the behaviour that’s most unlike our own. I’d never act that way! Surprisingly, this could be the behaviour you’re most resisting in yourself. You’d probably love to be able to tell your second cousin twice removed to go eff herself. And you can. In slightly more PC terms. And maybe take some time to chill out first. Acupuncture is great for relieving stress and releasing negative emotions. Alternatively, get a massage. Take a bath. Have a good, long sleep. Relax and let go…

3) Listen to your body

You’ve been asked on a wild girls’ night out. You’re ridiculously hung over and you have to finish a 10,000 word thesis in the morning. But it’s the only night Steph can get a baby sitter and Rebecca needs some cheering up after the break-up and Lorna’s desperate to meet a man. You have to go out! There will always be a million and three excuses as to why you simply have to do something. So, you usually suck it up and say “yes”, even though your body’s crying with exhaustion. Listen to it before you collapse. That should be good enough reason to say “no”.

4) Listen to your gut

Every answer you need to know is within yourself. So, don’t be afraid to ask. And don’t forget to listen. The moment I realised I had put my “yes” days behind me was a few months after graduation when I received an important email from my supervisor. He was wondering if I’d be interested in trying to get my dissertation published as a journal article. He added that it would require more research. I was honoured to have been asked. My work was obviously pretty good. I drooled at the potential prestige and was about to type “yes” when I paused and really thought about it. I hadn’t even been passionate about the subject matter. I had just done it because it had to be done and was relieved when it was all over. Did I really want to do more work on it? The answer was “no”. If I’d listened to my initial gut reaction, I would have immediately known that this definitely wasn’t for me. I struggled momentarily with what others would think. She’s some eejit passing up an opportunity like this! But I ignored my doubts and listened to my gut, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t automatically say “yes”. I was proud of myself.

5) Ban “yes” from your vocabulary for a while

If you say “yes” to absolutely everything, you’re going to get into some serious trouble. In the film Yes Man [SPOILER ALERT], Carl went from living a lack lustre life to becoming a “yes man”. Saying “yes” all the time pushed Carl to learn Korean, get promoted, and fall in love with a quirky musician. He was also robbed, arrested, and beat up. Great plot for a movie but dangerous in real life.

Inspired by Jim Carrey’s shenanigans, I toyed with the idea of saying “yes” to everything for an entire week. That night, I went to the local pub. After saying “yes” to several pints, shots of tequila, and cigarettes (even though I’d quit), a creepy older man, who’d been harassing me for the past two years, asked me to go home with him. I realised that saying “yes” to absolutely everything wasn’t exactly hilarious.

So, when someone asks if you want another drink, which would make it your seventh of the night, and you know if you drink it, you won’t remember the lock-in or the table-dancing or the messy journey home, and you’ll probably wake up some time in the late afternoon, still wearing your stilettos, just say “NO”.

6) What do you want?

Would you like to go for a two-hour walk with your extremely draining neighbour or would you rather take a power nap? Do you want to join the college gang on another trip to Ayia Napa or would you really like to save up for a flight to New Orleans or India? Are you just saying “yes” because it never occurred to you to suggest something of your own? Maybe you’ve been following others for so long that you don’t even know what you enjoy. Now is the time to start exploring your own tastes in food, music, and movies. It’s exciting to finally be able to explore and develop your own personality and passions.

Since I’ve started getting to know myself better, I’ve come to the gleeful conclusion that I like red wine, The Coronas, old man pubs and lemon cupcakes…

theanniescupcakes.com

That first date: It’s like a job interview, only fun!

First dates are nerve-racking exercises. You’re meeting up with someone you hardly know (or may not have even met yet) with the purpose of deciding whether the two of you may be suited as a couple. Talk about pressure! Questions and concerns swirl around your frazzled head: What if I don’t fancy this person? What if I make a fool of myself? They might not like my style. They could be an axe murderer.

I’ve often wished that I’d never agreed to go on a date in the first place. I’d prefer to curl up with a book in the safety of my own home and live vicariously through fictional heroines playing out their lustful encounters. But you’ve already promised to meet this possible stalker/love of your life. Here are some tips for surviving that anxiety-inducing first date.

1) Do it

This tip may be stating the obvious but some people get cold feet and cancel, or even worse, stand up their dates at the last minute. It’s not the title of a best-selling book for nothing so “feel the fear and do it anyway”. What we stress about is rarely as bad as we’d forecast. You may even enjoy yourself, meet someone new and interesting, and possibly fall in love. You’ll wonder why you worried your little head in the first place.

2) Have a metaphorical ejector seat ready

If you’re really unsure of your date’s character or whether or not you’ll die of boredom/fear, have a back-up plan arranged before you go for that drink. Make sure someone knows where you’re going and always rendezvous in a public place. We’ve all watched enough CSI, Cold Case, and Criminal Minds to entertain the possibility of rape and/or murder. If the date is going pear-shaped, send a sneaky text to a sibling or best friend, and when they call you, gasp in appropriate amounts of horror and concern. Then, give your unsuspecting date your “sincere” apologies for having to rush to the hospital/vet/police station.

I went on a date with a German guy a few years back. We strolled through the Englischer Garten on a balmy Friday evening. How romantic, I thought. This shows that he’s different. And different he was. He spent the whole time pontificating about God, sociology and literature, and how he doesn’t drink alcohol or believe in true love. The guy didn’t even like sunshine for crying out loud, instead preferring to spend his summers sweating over encyclopedias in Munich’s library. It was time for the ejector seat text. Five minutes later, I hopped on the U-Bahn, smiling with relief as I sped off to an imaginary flooding in my student digs.

3) Ask questions

Most people love talking about themselves. So, feed into this by asking lots of questions. It’ll also give you a chance to take a few deep breaths and settle your nerves as you allow them to waffle on. And how else are you going to find out if you share the same passion for The Cure and scuba diving? Show an interest in the person and in their job and hobbies. But if your eyes are glazing over and you’re swimming in and out of consciousness as they drone on and on about bondholders or fly fishing, change the subject. There’s no point in feigning interest in a subject that makes you want to rip your eyelashes out. Maybe you’re just not suited as a couple but your date won’t realise this if you make like a nodding dog throughout the whole conversation.

Don’t make the mistake of acting like the next Vincent Browne. Too many questions may make your date feel like they’re being interrogated. Recently, I had a date with a shy younger man. I felt the need to fill the awkward silences by asking question after question after question. I knew I was doing it but I just couldn’t help myself. I never saw the terrified crater again.

4) Be open

Tell your date you’re nervous. It’s more than likely that he/she is too and this will help break the ice, and show the person that you’re only human. If you want to go home after just one drink, tell your date this. There’s no point in dragging out the night for the sake of being polite. You’ll only spend more money, drink more than you’d planned, and lead on the person you’re squirming beside.

5) Don’t get drunk

This is very tempting and easy to do on a first date. You’re shaking with the nerves and there’s nothing you’d like to do more than down five pints of cider. But with this mass consumption of alchohol come the not so helpful beer goggles. This strategy will leave you in the exact same predicament as you were in before the date. Do you actually like/fancy the person or did the booze make you do it? If you want to get to know a person without the booze-fogged spectacles, or you can’t trust yourself not to do shots with this almost stranger, how about going for coffee instead?

6) You can’t hurry love

Don’t expect to feel that lightning bolt of lust and romance straight away. It takes time to get to know a person. Enjoy the process. Also, don’t jump into bed with each other. There’s something magical about that in-between stage so why not bask in it? Employ the delayed gratification approach. Court each other and go on dates. Some schools of thought insist that men are like hunters who love the chase. And if a woman gives it up too easily, they’ll lose interest. This may be the case for some men but if they’re any way more advanced than their primal ancestors, this shouldn’t be a problem. I know of couples who are still together and madly in love years after their “one-night stand”. However, it’s nice to have something to look forward to. And it’s not a bad idea to decide if you can stand the person before you have a one-night stand.

7) Don’t oversell a version of yourself that doesn’t actually exist

Yes, put on your war paint/lucky knickers/favourite shirt/Lynx aftershave. You’re dressing to impress after all. But don’t play games or present an image of the person you think your date wants to be with. This will only lead to disappointment, resentment, and a hell of a lot of work to keep up the façade. If the thought of wearing stilettos and a tight dress brings you out in a rash, don’t force yourself into them on a first date. You’ll only be uncomfortable for the night and you’ll be pretending to be someone you’re not.

8. Break the ice

Do something different. A fun activity will zap the nerves. Even if you don’t fancy each other, at least you’ll enjoy yourselves. Go ice skating, laugh it up at a comedy club, try go-karting, go to a gig. I’d vote against going to the cinema on a first date. You won’t get to chat and you probably won’t be able to concentrate on the film anyway because you’ll be too busy debating whether or not to throw the arm around.

9) White lies and honesty

White lies were invented to get us out of cringeworthy situations without hurting the other’s feelings. There’s nothing wrong with making up an excuse to make life easier for both parties. Once, I went on a date with a guy I’d gotten to know over the internet. The moment I walked into the bar, I knew he wasn’t for me. We had absolutely nothing in common, and the thought of kissing him made me throw up a little in my mouth (true story). So when, after two glasses of Guinness, he asked if I wanted another drink “for the road”, I told him I was a light weight and simply couldn’t handle another. When he tried to take my hand as we walked out of the pub, I busied myself with putting on gloves, a hat, a scarf, and buttoning up my coat. He offered to drive me home. I told him I was meeting a friend. When he still wasn’t getting the hint after all those subtle attempts to let him down easy, I told him I wasn’t over my ex and therefore, was not ready for a new relationship. Then, I ran. This didn’t stop him from begging for reasons by text and by email. “Do I look different from my pictures?”, “What did I do wrong?”, “Did I waste your time?” Actually, maybe lying wasn’t such a good idea after all. If all the lying isn’t getting you anywhere (like in the case above), tell the truth. Honesty rarely lets you down. So, I told him we just had nothing in common. And I haven’t heard from him since. Check out this short film about being completely honest on a first date. 

10) Keep your options open

Don’t settle for the first half-decent person who shows an interest in you. Just because you’ve gone on one date, doesn’t mean you’ve lost your single status. Think of yourself as a soon-to-be bride sampling lots of wedding cakes before deciding on “the one” for her wedding day. How can you find out which is most suitable/tastiest if you don’t try out a number of them? This can be a fun process. So, get out there and enjoy whittling down your options.

11) Enjoy!

Finally, enjoy the date. You’re lucky enough to be in demand. Think of all the bored folk sat at home with only their remote controls for company. The nerves will soon dissipate. Just get out there and have fun.

Heart-break: when your other half leaves, are you just 50 per cent there?

You know that moment when you’ve lost someone. It’s in their eyes. The way they don’t look at you. And suddenly, your hand on their neck feels unwelcome. The sweet name you’re about to call them sticks in your throat. That person is no longer there for you.

He’s driving me home. Doing the right thing. He’s not a bad person. But he’s got many issues and for that, I know it’s for the best that it’s over. But logic and heart ache reside in two separate parts of the body and I can’t reconcile the two. Not yet.

When it’s over, I return to my apartment. I walk from room to room. We danced to Mumford and Sons on the radio right here. He wrapped himself in my blanket there. We ate a fry at that table. We bathed here and washed each others’ hair.

Then, there’s the bedroom. I sink onto the bed and find a dark hair on the sheet. The pillow smells of him. The tears come now.

I want him to take this pain away. But he’s not here for me any more. I have to do this myself.

Here’s how to survive heart-break:

1. Grieve the loss

I’ve found myself sobbing on the bedroom floor for more than one break up. I’ve mourned the loss of the dark-eyed, curly-headed children that my ex-husband and I would now never have. A friend of mine walked around her house wailing for three nights straight. It may seem excessive, uncomfortable and annoying for your flat mates or family but just get it out.

2. Talk it out

With family. With friends. Go for coffee/dinner/drinks. Your loved ones are bound to make you laugh, point out what a dick head he was anyway, and tell you how amazing you are. That’s not gonna hurt.

3. Go on a night out

Get all dolled up. Have a laugh with your friends. Get tipsy. Get chatted up. Maybe even kiss a guy. After any break up, my cousin used to ask me, “Have you erased him yet?” Meaning: “Have you kissed another guy yet, which will erase the last guy?” Easier said than done. And sometimes being with a new guy will just make you miss your last one even more. But just know that you’re desirable and there is hope for the future.

Drinking a lot may seem like a great idea at the time. But the next day, the blues could hit you even harder than before. Just be aware that it’s the alcohol and sleep it off as best you can.

4. Stop all contact

I’ve fallen into being friends with an ex, which does not help you get over the guy. You’re constantly being reminded of him, and maybe secretly hoping that he’ll realise you’re “the one”. I removed my last ex as a friend on Facebook, then bawled my eyes out. It was so final. But better in the long run.

5. Holiday!

Think Shirley Valentine or Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Nothing like sunshine and a totally foreign location to get a new perspective on things. Even having a break to look forward to will beat off the post relationship depression.

6. Read A New Earth by Eckart Tolle

This might seem really specific but it worked for me. This book has changed many lives. The way Mr Tolle speaks about the ego, identification, attachment, love and relationships is revelational.

If you’re madly in love, beware. We’ve all grown up with certain ideas about love that come from sickly sweet romantic comedies and slit-your-wrist love songs. We’re all familiar with declarations such as “I can’t live if living is without you” and “You complete me”. No wonder when a relationship ends, we doubt we’ll survive.

The truth is, if we love ourselves and are happy with our lives, the loss of a person, though disappointing, should not turn our world completely upside down. This might be strange or hard for a lot of you to read but the way Eckhart Tolle describes being “in love” makes a lot of sense. He talks about being in love with someone because they fit into the categories you want from a partner. They’re tall, dark and handsome. Or maybe you’re just in a good mood. Have you ever felt really happy and then proclaimed your love for someone? I know I have. It had more to do with how I was feeling than my love for that person. Eckhart Tolle also says that the Spanish way of saying “I love you” (“Te quiero“) literally translates as “I want you”, which is far more honest. You want that person for yourself. You want to control how they behave. And then when you lose that control, love can so easily turn into hate. If your partner does something you don’t like, you can despise them in moments. They cheat on you. They don’t love you any more. They leave you.

If you’re having problems with heart ache, read this book. It’ll change the way you think about love and about life in general. Check out Eckhart Tolle TV for some clips of the man himself speaking…

7. List of cons

My sister told me to write a list of all the reasons why you and your ex are not good together, all the shitty things he’s done to you, how his willy is tiny, etc. If Eckhart Tolle is too spiritual for ya, at least this list will give you a bit of a kick.

8. Remember other exes

This sounds dangerous but when I broke up with my last partner, I remembered how bad I felt when I ended things with previous exes and how, now, I couldn’t give a shit about them. I am so over them. Which means I will be so over this guy soon. Time is a great healer. And if you follow rule number four, it’ll happen sooner rather than later.

If this was your first love, talk to others who’ve been through heart-break before. Know you’re not alone in this. And look at them now as they have fun being single or are happy out in their new relationships.

Check out this video of the hilarious Flight of the Conchords. Laughter really is the best medicine…

Everyone suffers heart ache at some point. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one to death or divorce, to circumstances or someone else, it hurts like hell. But we can survive it. And when we start a new relationship with someone better and much more suitable, who treats you as you deserve, you won’t regret a moment of the heart-break you’ve gone through. It will be worth it.