Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Dear Brexit

Dear Brexit,

(I feel I should pause here just to let those who know me well get past the fact that I'm involving myself in politics...and more importantly, that I know the word Brexit...and what it means. You can close your mouth now, start breathing again and give me my cookie later).

Now where was I...

Ah, yes. Brexit. ARE. YOU. MAD? Now look what you've done! I mean it's all very well feeling a bit hard done by, or very hard done by. To feel like your needs have not been listened to or that you're living a life that you didn't choose based on decisions you didn't feel in control of. I understand that. I do. But this is not the answer.

A week ago, you were feeling frustrated that you were living in a country controlled by people outside, people who don't live in your Great Britain bubble. That is a tad annoying, yes. But you were also frustrated because, despite what you may now like to argue, to try and make yourselves feel better about the awful decision you made, you were living on an island run by people who also didn't seem to listen to your needs. The people in here running the island, on the island. The people we call politicians. Government. You weren't happy with them. So what did you do? You threw your toys out of the pram. You stuck your tongue out, blew a raspberry and said:

"Nah nah nah naaa naaa! I don't like you so I'm going to vote............."


Vote what though? You felt so proud of your little revolt that you failed to realize that what you were doing was sticking your tongue out at the annoying little boys in the playground who try and tell you what toys you can and can't use, and then locked yourself in a room with them! You thought 'I don't like you and how you treat me so I'm going to teach you a lesson...I'm going to wave goodbye to all my friends, abandon my friendship group on the other side of the monkey bars, and I'm going to go and lock myself in the Wendy house with you and see what happens'.

Do you see where you went wrong yet? I mean, you locked yourself in the Wendy house with the guys you don't like...and you shouted names at your friends outside. Forgive me if I'm missing something (as I wrote at the beginning, politics isn't my strength..) but this seems like a little bit of a shit plan. Now we're stranded on an island and you don't like the people in charge. Well done. Pat on the back.

Then there's the second big mistake that a lot of your cohort have made. You argued that you wanted your country back, that you wanted the 'outsiders' gone and our little ol' island back to how it was in the good old days. Once again, forgive me if I sound stupid, but we kind of, definitely, need those 'outsiders' to keep our home afloat. Unless you live in a completely different world to mine, I find it hard to believe that you have never relied on someone from another of our brother and sister countries to help you when you were stuck. Someone who treated you in hospital when you were ill, drove that taxi to take you home when you were too drunk to even remember your own name, to provide you with that delicious pizza you ordered from your favourite take-away down the road or to clean up the mess you created in the living room while celebrating the rugby results in your union jack underwear while eating your fish and chips.

Even I got my creativity on...pretty proud of this one
Over the last few days there have been some amazing demonstrations of creativity from the Bremain side. Facebook status' and memes' to express what this decision was based on. Articles. Cartoons. The lot. One that I read described how, now that we are free from the bounds of the EU, we will:

'wake up in [my] Union Jack jim-jams to the sound of a squadron of Spitfires racing overhead and leaving a trail of hot buttered crumpets behind them'

(You should read the rest of that one here, it's great!)

Even Winnie-the-Pooh got involved! He tried to explain to Piglet that voting out was never going to change anything, other than for the bad. Although it was promised that the Heffalumps invading the wood would diminish in number, that animals such as little Piglet would regain control of Hundred Acre Wood and the NHS would be fixed...as Pooh most elegantly puts it 'that was all bollocks'.

It's like at school, when the children are told to vote for their next head girl or boy. A child stands up there on the podium, 11-years old, quaking in her little Clarks velcro's and says: 'I promise that if you vote for me, we'll have chocolate biscuits and orange juice instead of milk and plain digestives, every day for the entire year'.

She gets her badge. Do we get our chocolate biscuits and orange juice?


The situation we are in now is like that classroom but on a much bigger scale and instead of chocolate biscuits and orange juice, you were promised a crumpet filled, union jack covered, roast dinner serving paradise with a wonderful NHS, white-skinned, Queens-English-speaking streets and God knows what else. The reality is, Farage and his minions have the head boy badges and the streets are filled with racist comments and accusations and the withdrawal of big people and money that we need to survive as a nation, a nation from which we won't even be able to escape across the waters as quickly and easily as we could before. A nation where, on top of it all, the headteacher, who led us all into this mess, deciding to take early retirement as soon as he realized his pupils weren't happy.

Great! Now we might be stuck with the dude with the funny white hair who started the whole bikes in London business. Boris...I mean, who does that to a child!...

I spent 5 years at a boarding school where a large number of the students weren't British and where some of my closest friends were from a range of countries. When it came to choosing university, I had an offer from Exeter. Ignoring the beyond crazy percentage of my course that would have been exam based and the fact that the grades they were asking for were ridiculous, one of the big factors pushing me away from choosing to go there was the student population. Largely white and middle class. If I wanted that, I could have just stayed at home in my little west Berkshire village bubble for the whole of eternity. I wanted the big city, multicultural surroundings, friends from all walks of life. QMUL provided that, with over 50% of the students "non white" whether international or having grown up in Britain. I love London and I'm so happy that I'm staying there for at least another 2 years if not longer. An international bubble in national crisis mode. 

I wished I was in charge once too...so I dressed as the Queen...
but I didn't leave the EU..and look, I'm happy! You won't be for long.
The point is, you screwed up. Families sat in front of their tellies feeling fairly confident that, despite the risks, the UK would pull itself together and, of course, everything would be fine! Eight hours later and people are on the phone crying. Families are devastated and even those who voted for this outcome are having major regrets. The number of time we've had to switch off the TV or the radio as someone is interviewed saying they voted out but 'I wish I hadn't'....or they voted out 'but I didn't think my vote would matter'. It's ridiculous. It's scary and it's sad.

It's sad that people feel so under the control and power of others that they genuinely feel it won't matter how they vote in something like this because what will happen, will happen. People feel they can use a vote on as important a matter as this to get back at the people they feel hurt them or that they can use this vote to defend what they describe as 'the country our grandparents fought to protect'. Our grandparents or great grandparents, or whoever people like to use, didn't fight to protect our right to a proper English Breakfast every morning and bunting hanging in the streets over our roast chicken and home-grown broccoli, they fought to help protect the people around us who were being hurt. People who, until 5 days ago, we were united with. People who now, we've turned our backs on.

For what?

For the sake of some crumpets and a cup of tea.

Cupcake, my dear Brexiteer?...I'm afraid they're slightly old
and I can't guarantee all the ingredients are British
These may be enjoyed by the numbers of lovely elderly folk who sit with a smile on their face that they've got their childhood back, but it isn't going to last. Soon, your bubble will burst and all you will have done is sent your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren down that path ahead without knowing yourselves what is at the end. You've strung your pretty union jack bunting up around the living room, popped on the kettle and settled down to planning your 80th birthday bash. Meanwhile, your 17 year old granddaughter down the road didn't get a chance to vote for her future.

You made that decision for her and you won't be there to hold her hand as she falls.

So, Brexit, I hope you get the message. You made a booboo. We all do it. But yours was a big one. You didn't just throw your toys out of the pram but you threw a match out after them and set the whole house on fire. Soon you'll realize that the firemen aren't coming to save you but until then, enjoy your crumpets, we'll be over here, in the playroom, tidying up your mess.

Most ungratefully,

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Dear Sex

Dear Sex,

Yes, that's right. I'm writing to you. Recently, I was talking to a friend and we established that you are treated rather like mental health issues. One of the many elephants in the room when it comes to topics of conversation while you're wandering around the supermarket. While you're blatantly there, all four legs, 2 big ears and a crazy trunk, nobody says a word. Let's face it, you're impossible to miss...your existence cannot be denied...and yet. Nobody mentions you. As soon your people hear your name, the blushes begin followed by the awkward stuttering. If you and all your complexities ever are mentioned, there's probably been some alcohol involved: a drunken confession or a game of 'Never Have I Ever', events that, on waking up the next morning with a splitting headache, will probably have been forgotten...or...


Oh God. No.

Did I really say that?

Did I really tell him I liked him?

Did I really confess to that entire room of, largely, strangers how far I've gone with that guy?


I'm NEVER drinking again."

Someitmes I wonder why anyone is ever attracted to me...Ok...frequently
What if, instead, and bare (gettit?) with me here, we felt able to discuss our sex lives and all that goes with them...sober. Just as part of the general daily discussions with friends on how life is going, we could admit to all we are thinking and feeling about our current sex lives...or lack of them if that's the case.

I've never been shy of the topic myself. I'm someone who is very open about things and, combined with my general anxiety about almost every aspect of this thing we call life, sex has not been a topic I have ignored. Despite having my first boyfriend from the age of 13 to 15, I didn't have sex until I was 18. I was an early developer and became curious about all aspects of sex from about the age of ten, however it scared me...

Oh...fourteen year old me...so cute and innocent...didn't even own a make-up bag
'I'm not the most confident person' could have been my yearbook quote from nursery until, well, now as well as being awarded the prize of 'biggest understatement of the year'. I have this way of living life feeling as if pretty much everything I do is a test of some kind with everyone around me as the examiners. The world is watching, ready to laugh as I tumble over the first hurdle, trip over the pavement and glide. ungracefully as possible, into a lamppost at the finish line. From the age of 13 onwards, sex was my test. It was the one everyone around me seemed to be partaking in and passing with flying colours while I still hadn't bought the text book...well, I'd bought the text book, even read a chapter or two but was terrified of actually testing my knowledge.

So I didn't. Not until I was 18 anyway. Then I got frustrated and decided I just wanted the test over and done with. Even if I failed. at least I'd have an idea of the questions being asked, the things I was being tested on, the subject matter...and my boyfriend of the time agreed. Now, I know there's a limit to what should be publicized on the internet so I won't go into detail but let's just say, I came out of that first test run (to no-one's fault in particular) deciding I didn't enjoy the subject at all. Even after a few retakes, I had no idea why anyone would want to repeat it, FOR FUN!? I mean, it seemed to me to be on the same level as someone making the conscious decision, after taking GCSE Geography, to continue it into A-Level...madness! Much to what I now realize may have been to the disappointment of my boyfriend, I therefore refused to continue the subject, or even try and improve on my last result, for most of the rest of our relationship. For that, I apologise.

We were darn cute anyway so no regrets!
Fast-Forward 6 months or so and I'm in a new relationship. A slightly older guy...much more experience...a lot more confident. I enjoyed the subject more but, if anything, lost a lot of confidence. I felt as if I'd missed a few of the vital chapters in the textbook and that, whether he meant to or not, this particular boyfriend felt the need to point out where I fell short...and not necessarily in the most sensitive of ways. Eventually, and this time, not because of me, that aspect of our relationship just fizzled out, followed a few months later by our relationship. It turns out you can't maintain a relationship when you're someone who enjoys a little hand-holding, snuggling on the sofa and Netflix and chill when your partner is more of a 'can you just scoot that way, I'm way too hot with you sitting so close' type...

Oh well, onward and upwards.

After a few weeks of 'seeing' a guy I was once at school with, meeting up, hanging out and him staying over (and sleeping!), I joined tinder. Although I've been on a few dates and collected some male friends along the way, nothing went anywhere and I don't think I ever would have wanted it to. After swiping and talking to a range of strangers, I realized I have no idea how people do this online dating stuff...how do you talk to a complete stranger on the other side of a screen and genuinely feel comfortable with it going somewhere further...some even before they've met for just a simple cup of tea in person. I was there looking for true love and everyone else just seemed to want a buddy for the night...a stranger in their bed...weird.

Obviously that wasn't always the case and I have met some really lovely guys but, recently, I had a revelation.

So, approximately a month and a half ago a guy I had met once, a friend of my brother's, messaged me to ask me for tea. He'd seen me on Tinder but since we were friends on Facebook, it seemed more appropriate. We met up, had 4 hours of non-stop talking and tea-drinking...largely me talking, him...nodding (he says that's how he rolls) and a kiss at the end. We planned a second date and a third. On the third date, I cooked him dinner. Little did I know that that invitation is code for 'Do you want to come to mine and bring your toothbrush?'. Apparently it is, and he did...that was my first experience of sex with someone who was not a 'boyfriend' and you know what? It. Was. Amazing. (He's going to read this and feel so smug...I spend far too much time stroking his ego...). A few days later and we decided to make it a more regular thing. Friends with Benefits...but where we actually hang out too...I go to his and watch movies, he comes to mine and we have dinner...we go for wanders if the weather is nice...he even got me playing football with his friends...and my brother...now that was entertaining.

One of us always brings a toothbrush.

I met Edd at a Movember themed party...I was proud of this penguin
We see each other a couple of times a week, depending on how busy we are and I feel like a completely new person. I've gone from looking for true love and striving for the perfect scene from all my favourite rom-coms combined, to loving the complete lack of anxiety involved in what I've got going right now. I've realised that over the years, something that has always correlated strongly with the amount I cry per week and how anxious I am, is whether I am in a relationship. Don't get me wrong, I love relationships and the three I've had over my adolescent years are months and years I wouldn't change but, right now, I just want to take a break. I want to relax and just enjoy each day. Meeting people, making new friends and learning to enjoy and understand that I'm only 20 and I don't need to be looking for true love. If it happens, then great, amazing even, I'd be over the moon of course, but I've spent far too much of the last few months and years searching for that pot of gold at the end of my rainbow and missing out on just enjoying 'dating' for a change.

'Dating' - the act of meeting someone lovely, someone you have a connection with, doing things you both enjoy, drinking tea, walking in the park, holding hands (come on guys, it's not difficult) and, if it's what you both want, taking it further, but it doesn't all have to have the end goal of that pot of gold. Because I'm young...and I have time. I know the saying: 'Stop looking and it will come to you'. If the person is right, if they understand me and accept me for who I am, for my overly emotional (but only because I care a hell of a lot) character, then great, let's see where it goes. It's not that I've stopped wanting that, it's that I'm letting my anxiety relieve some of it's load. The part of the load that revolves around the heart; heart flutters and heartbreaks. Letting someone else come to me for a change and take the lead. I'm taking things slow.

Over the last month and a bit, I've realized exactly why it is that sex is so important to so many people. Why people enjoy it so much and why some choose to wait. Everyone has different ways of viewing you, sex, and dealing with all the ups and downs, confusions and complications that you can bring but for the first time, despite all those ups, down, confusions and complications, I feel I really get you. You don't have to be awkward or something people avoid. The point is that we all know you're weird. You're an odd part of life but an important one and as long as two (or more...if that's what you're into) people understand that, and are understanding and kind with each other, then you shouldn't be that elephant in the room.

You should be something we can talk about. I've moved from the side of the unknown and confused to the side of the 'Ohhhh, I get it now!' and it shouldn't be frowned upon or laughed at that other people want to make that transition. While some may be lucky enough to be confident from the start, others may reach the end of university or their wedding day and be absolutely terrified. You're built up in people's mind to be such a big deal. In every film we watch, TV series that graces our telly or magazine we buy, you are a big part. I would see these films or these episodes and think how easy and romantic and fun it looked and when it wasn't like that at first, I thought there was something wrong with me. That I really had missed out on an entire chapter in the text book and that I was never going to pass this test.

Now...my confidence is up and the selfie game is strong!
But I understand it now. I've got the knowledge and the confidence. I know that it takes two to tango and that, with the right person, no question is too stupid. Communication is key. Sex, you're not just a physical part of life, a way to continue the population or for adolescents to win popularity...you're a way of getting close to other people. To learn more about an individual than many others around them may even know. To build up confidence and to develop trust.

You're important, you're relevant and you're part of life.

Thank you for giving me the time to understand you.