Sunday, 14 August 2016

Beck's boys and gyrating gurls.

When I moved to Manchester, it was on a complete whim. I had no money, no job, and the only person I knew in the city was my friend who was kind enough to let me stay at hers. (Although I'm not as terrible to live with as people assume, even if I do listen to Shania Twain regularly, and without irony.)

I left Swindon, rather rashly, because there was no real reason for me to stay there anymore, and I had cliche dreams of pursuing a more 'creative' career. So obviously, like anyone else trying to avoid a 'real' job (aka becoming the latest animal to enter the financial farm), I conned someone into hiring me as a bartender.

For those of you that care / are avoiding having to make eye contact with anyone you're currently with, here are some of the things I 'learnt' in my brief bartending career.

There will be sick.

It might be your own, but it probably won't be.

The most graphic sick-cident I ever witnessed happened around 5pm (obviously prime chunder time), and it was a few days before Christmas. The bar was packed with families binging on burgers (fuck you Jamie Oliver; they won't do what you tell them), and there were a few groups of  #ladsladslads trying to make the most out of the festive 'it's always Beck's o'clock'  period.

Without warning, a 'lad' stood up, opened his mouth, and power-washed the bar floor with his own vomit. When he'd finished violating the place, he simply sat down, and carried on eating his burger. He was impressively nonchalant; the epitome of 'no fucks given', and the complete polar opposite to all of the other punters.

In hindsight, I probably should've done something about it, but I definitely took the 'underpaid and under appreciated employee' approach, and tried to act like I hadn't just witnessed social terrorism. Thankfully, my boss actually cared about his job, and he dealt with it for me.

Unfortunately for me, my boss wasn't always there to be my knight in vomit armour, and occasionally I was forced to physically deal with a stranger's tangible regret.  I won't go into graphic details (not that graphic anyway), but there was at least one incident where I had to finger semi-solidified Sambuca into a sinkhole. It was like the most repulsive one-night stand anyone could ever have.

You'll learn that it's okay to tell customers to 'get dead'.

Okay, you might use nicer words (sometimes), but the sentiment will remain the same.

When you work in a bar (especially one in a city centre), you'll come across complete knuckle-fucks all of the time. There'll be guys who think it's okay to grope you when you walk past, there'll be people who talk to you like you're nonce scum (just because they've had to wait a little bit for their Jagerbomb), and there'll be girls that get really aggy when you try and move their gyrating arse out of the way. (News Flash: bartenders only get in the way because they want to do their job. We definitely don't get in the way of your 'Beyonce' moves to try and cop off with 'your' fella, especially when we've just seen him try and finger bang you in the corner.)

Anyway, the point is that you'll meet a lot of douche bags. At first, I'd always make sure I used my P's and Q's, but I quickly learnt it wasn't that effective. Dropping bombs might not be the best way to solve a conflict (soz Johnson), but dropping verbal bombs does seem to shut down a dickhead-drunk (at least temporarily). And if you ever say anything too offensive, you can always run away and hope they're too illiterate to leave an aggressive review on trip advisor (or too drunk to remember it happening, which is much much more likely).

(It also helps to work in a bar where the managers and bouncers genuinely respect you as a person; they'll immediately back you up if they need to.)

You'll hear a Drake song at least 74083928 times over the weekend.

Accept it, and embrace it. Although whenever I hear the intro to 'Hotline Bling', I immediately start pouring shots of tequila, so maybe Pavlov was onto something (soz for slagging you off in all my assignments at Uni, m8).

Games are great.

Let's not beat around the bush - working in a bar can be hella boring. You will need to play games, otherwise self-harm starts to look like a welcome distraction (or you could be a nerd and do something less drastic, like your actual job).

Sometimes, a 'game' might be as simple as filling up a martini glass with crushed ice, and seeing how much of the crushed ice you can eat whilst you keep the glass perpendicular to your mouth, à la hungry hippo.

Other times, you might risk another terrible trip advisor rating by seeing how uncomfortable you can make a customer feel (it might've only been me that volunteered to do this, so it was probably less of a game, and more of another desperate demonstration of my need for attention).

And if your work colleagues (at best) are slightly disgusting, you can always play 'how much money would you need to...?'. Although I did resign temporarily from that game after I ate a cigarette butt for £8.50. In my own defence (look at me mum, finally being all laweyery and that), I did originally ask for a tenner, but I settled for the change the 'challengers' had on them at the time (reason 32425 as to why I'd make a terrible prostitute).

You'll see a lot of first dates. 

I resent other people's happiness, so my favourite first dates were the ones that made spending a day in Fritzl's basement seem like a rather romantic alternative.

My least favourite dates to witness were the ones that had taken the 'let's get blind drunk, so we find each other physically attractive' approach. These dates would inevitably end in the pair performing a terrible sex show, and they'd rarely have the decency to move to the shadows. True romance might be dead, but the art of dry-rubbing is well and truly alive.

For me, this kind of date is worse than watching a painfully public break-up because I find all forms of PDA visually offensive. Even when my friends (all two of them) hold hands with their loved ones, I immediately try and moonwalk out of the situation. Seriously, doesn't anyone else understand that affection is for the weak? #bebitternotbetter

You'll learn how to make a cocktail.

When I say 'you'll learn how to make a cocktail', I mean 'you'll learn how to pretend you know what the hell you're doing when someone asks for a cocktail'.*

Step one: when a customer asks for a drink, do not panic. Remain calm, collected, and confident. It's a good idea to reply with 'one ineffably delicious cocktail coming right up', or something pretentious like that.

Step two: if you can't remember what goes into the cocktail, improvise, and improvise with flair. And by that, I mean tell the customer to take a seat, and that you'll bring the cocktail over to them. If the bar is too busy for that, simply grab whatever alcohol is nearest to you, and make sure you add all of the sugar to counteract the poisonous taste of whatever it is you've just created.

Step three: when you're shaking the cocktail, shake it with finesse. If it's not too loud, say things like 'oooooo baby, can you hear the rhythm of the ice there?'.

Step four: before you pour the cocktail, try it yourself. Even if it tastes like you've just licked a rotten carcass, react as if you've just tasted the nectar of the gods. Your pretence will give the customer confidence in the monstrosity you've created; it means they're less likely to complain.

Step five: pour the cocktail, add an insta-worthy garnish, and serve the cocktail as if you've just finished painting the Sistine Chapel.

Step six: once the customer has got their cocktail, run away. Seriously, go and make out you need to spend some time in the toilet, and hope your boss didn't just witness any of your heinous cocktail crimes.

*Fortunately for the bar, everyone else I worked with actually knew how to do their job properly, and some of them are true connoisseurs of cocktail making.

You'll make friends.

And not 'work' friends, but real, genuine friends. Friends who become your new, incredibly warped, and slightly incestuous, family.

I think you become so close because working in a bar is different to most other jobs; you go through a lot together in a such a short space of time. Being a bartender is probably the modern equivalent of fighting in the trenches. I mean, you're not actually at risk of trench foot, but you will ruin all of your shoes, which I'm guessing is pretty much the same thing.

It might also have something to do with the fact that some of the greatest people work in bars, as long as it's not the kind of pretentious place where people are hired just because they're 'pretty'. In more 'alternative' bars, you tend to find the kind of people you want to be friends, because you know they'll make you more interesting through default.

Even your managers become your friends, so you get to be yourself nearly 100% of the time, and when you have a fair few Gary Glitter based jokes (like I do), that's pretty bloody rare.

So, I might've worked inhumanely long hours, for minimum wage. I might've put on weight. And I might've become a borderline alcoholic (I'm only saying borderline in case my current boss ever reads this). Despite all of this, I had a pretty great time being a terrible bartender. Because, when all is said and done, I got paid to lark about with my friends every single day. Yes, bartending might've taken away my health (not that I've ever been a poster girl for healthy living), but it gave me lots, and lots of lols.

Oh, and I also once served Fizz from Coronation Street, which makes me makes me pretty big time in Manchester.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

How much does it cost to get a terrible stomach, sunstroke, and sleep deprivation?

£228, plus £5 booking fee (according to the internet).

This weekend, an extortionate amount of people have been frolicking in mud and (probably) having the literal time of their life. I resent them all. In fact, I resent them so much, that I sent my friends (who are currently at Glastonbury) the screenshot of BBC's infamous typo before they went.

Yes, I know you should never joke about rape. But I'm bitter, alright?

I'm bitter because I tried, and tried, to get a ticket, but the internet Gods were not in my favour. I was so devastated, I actually cried. Although that could've also been because I was extremely hungover, my friends were making out upstairs (quite vocally), and I was just sat there, on my own, refreshing the 'sold out' page, again, and again. Honestly, I felt like more of a loser than the time I wasn't allowed into a house party, but the people I went with were. (I've never been cool.)

In hindsight, I was probably being a bit dramatic. But it's because I know there is nothing more euphoric than being a few days into a festival, watching your favourite band playing your favourite song, and carelessly dancing with your favourite people (apart from great sex, being naked in the ocean, and finding an estranged tenner in your pocket...obviously).   

I've spent a fair bit of time this weekend watching Glastonbury highlights, which hasn't really helped my bitterness. So I started to think about all the shitty (often literally shitty) parts of a festival.

First of all, getting to your campsite is terrible, especially if it's been raining. Seriously, it makes Frodo's journey to Mordor look like a casual stroll to the park. Your fingers start to blister from the bags you're carrying, and the bag on your back becomes more painful than listening to someone justify the need for Farage. It all gets terribly stressful, and there's a chance that a few of you (particularly if there are couples going) will argue on the way. Some people might even get left behind; it's a dog eat dog world after all.

But getting to camp, and setting up camp, is just the beginning. Because then (and this is probably the big one) you begin to face the toilet situation. For guys, I doubt going for a piss is too much of a problem. I know whacking out your schlong, and simply going for it, isn't really 'good for the land', but I doubt anyone cares about that once they're a few beers in. For girls, going for a simple piss can be quite challenging. If you're at a main stage (and you don't want to leave), you either have to accept that everyone around you is going to see what you had for breakfast, or you have to force your friends into forming some kind of vagina shelter.

Even if you do go to a toilet, especially one that's in a campsite, it's unlikely you're going to want your skin to make contact with the toilet seat. This is when shewees become the best thing since sliced bread. Although I would advise practising at home first; the first time I used a shewee, I terribly misjudged how to use it, and I pissed all over my only pair of shorts. I had been at the festival for half an hour, and I had four days left. It wasn't a strong start.

Also, if you're quite tall for a girl, using a shewee can be pretty awkward; you'll definitely make eye contact with the guy who's stood in the toilet opposite you. In that situation, I never explain myself. I simply give some kind of 'we're both peeing at the same time' nod of solidarity, and leave him questioning if I'm a boy or a girl. It's the only time I really blow anyone's mind. And I embrace it.

I also quickly discovered that it's a good idea to make sure that you've shut the door behind you properly. It's not a strong look when it swings open, and you're stood there in front of a crowd of 'ladsladslads' with your shorts round your ankles, and your arse fully out. I've always wanted to be the reason for people chanting at a festival, but 'get your shewee out for the lads' isn't really what I had in mind.

Now for the real issue - when it's not just a piss that you need. I've learnt that the best thing is to try and avoid it (easier said than done). If you're going for more than one or two days, beer is the biggest frenemy (unless your stomach is made out of granite). In all honesty, it's probably better to avoid beer completely. No one wants to be in the shituation where they have to go missing for a while because they're trying to sort out the fact that they've just sharted. I doubt anyone has ever felt particularly proud when they're forced to create a diversion, just so their friends won't notice a bag of ruined underwear being thrown across the me, I heard it from a 'friend'.

Going to the toilet without toilet roll can also prove to be a terrible decision. No one wants to be the person who went into a portaloo with both of their socks on, and then comes back out with one missing. It's not subtle.  And think about the blisters you'll definitely get.

Oh, and it's absolutely necessary to accept that you will be pissed on at some point. Hopefully not directly (although a guy did piss into my welly once - I can only assume he learnt social etiquette from a family of bin rats), but some sort of foreign liquid will hit you, and it'll be warm...real warm. You've just gotta hope that when it hits you, if it is hits your face, your mouth isn't open (somethings really are unforgettable, and unwillingly swallowing a stranger's piss is up there).

Moving away from the numerous amount of toilet issues, it can also get pretty physical at a festival. Seriously, I don't know if it's because I have a large face (and its surface area means there's a lot of potential for contact), but I always get hit. Sometimes it's with a rogue fist, and sometimes it's with a rogue elbow. Doesn't matter how it happens, but it always does. Genuinely, there hasn't been a festival where I haven't developed a fat lip at some point. Maybe it's because I've always been a sucker for heavier bands (a la 2006), and people think that violently swinging their limbs is a great way to show their appreciation. Luckily, I'm stubborn (and normally a few drinks in), so it doesn't really bother me too much.

Waking up each morning (I use the word 'morning' very loosely) is actually a lot more painful. Every day it gets slightly worse. The only real saving grace is that everybody smells, and feels, as bad as you. And misery really does love company. Although I highly doubt forcing my friends to watch me try and maintain my body hair (which is quite difficult when you're extremely pale and your hair is darker than Stalin's soul) makes them feel any better. It's probably one of the reasons, but definitely not the main one, why I haven't been invited to join any festival group chats in the past year or so.

And of course, there's the weather (gotta moan about the weather 'cas British). I've only ever been to festivals in England, so I've only ever experienced rain, mud, and occasional bouts of sunstroke heat. Thankfully, I've never been to a festival which has completely flooded out. So in my experience, as long as you never get off of the 'if my boss sees me like this, I'm most certainly fired' train, then it's possible to handle whatever the weather throws at you. (And if you're not too much of a princess about being outrageously dirty.)

But really, the truly terrible part of any festival happens when you get back home. Sure, you've been pushing your body to its limits for nearly a week, but you were also wrapped in a cocoon of kodak moments with your favourite people. When you get home, your body is broken, your bank account has been maxed out, and you're all alone. It's crippling.

Sometimes, the post-festival blues won't hit you instantly, but they will (don't get cocky - your time will definitely come). After the last festival I went to, they hit me when I was on my way to work. I was trying to park my car, and I was really struggling. A massive queue started to build up behind me, and as ridiculous as it might sound now, I honestly wanted to leave my car where it was, and jump off of the car park floor. But the car park was only one floor up, so it would've only been even more embarrassing for me. Eventually, I parked my car, went to work, avoided eye contact with everyone (post-festival guilt is also a thing), and tired to handle life.

But, despite the beer fear, the post-festival blues, and all the other terrible shit, I would fucking love to be at a festival right now. I'd even accept a mouthful of a stranger's piss, again.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

I only kiss gay men, and my relatives.

..A surprisingly accurate summary of my love life.

For the past few months, I've had my lips on serious lockdown, and I'm not sure why. It could be because I've ran out of people to kiss, or it could be because I'm actually related to a lot of people in the Greater Manchester area, and I have no idea what they look like. Or, it could be because I've recently discovered that Brandon Flowers lied to us all - it's rarely 'only a kiss'.

Sure, it was different when we were younger. My friends and I would don our awful bodycon skirts and our stupidly high heels, and we’d head out on out-out.  You wouldn’t be allowed drinks on the dance floor, so we’d throw back our 'three for one' drinks like we'd been buried in some sort of desert hole for weeks (when Lady GaGa's Poker Face was playing, you had to dance – those were the rules). But, seeing off that much vodka, in such a short space of time, meant that almost everyone was on the prowl. The dancefloor would be full of hormonal teenagers who were desperate to dry-rub their disco genitals against someone else. If you were single, there's a high chance you spent your night spreading your ethanol-drenched saliva about. If you weren't single, there's still a high chance you spent your night spreading your ethanol-drenched saliva about. We'd kiss each other, we'd kiss strangers, and then we'd kiss each other again. Yeah, it was incestuous, but we didn't really care back then (by ‘we’, I definitely mean ‘I’).

At Uni, it was worse...a lot worse. No one lived with their parents, everyone was legally allowed to drink, and the drinks were cheap. It's why most relationships don't survive Freshers’ Week; you're convinced that having the freedom to kiss multiple strangers every night is better than staying loyal to someone who actually knows your full name. And at that time in your life, it probably is the better option; you're young, and you're not responsible for anyone but yourself…it’s the perfect time to make lots of mistakes (in my opinion, it's much better to go through your ‘being a dick’ stage when it doesn’t affect anyone else).

Since entering the ‘real world’, I’ve realised that I'd often kiss people for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes it’d be because I needed an ego-boost, but most of the time it’d be because I was bored. Occasionally, I’d kiss a total stranger just to persuade the person that I’m actually into that I don’t care about them. I know…ten points to dickindor. But, you know how girls are always told that boys are mean to the girls they fancy? I think I took it as backwards dating advice…I became that mean boy.

Anyway, maybe becoming more self-aware is what ruined casual kissing for me. Or maybe it’s because everyone is older, and everyone cares more now. You might not realise it (I definitely didn’t), but there’s a big chance you’re fucking someone over, somehow.

It might be that the person you're ‘only’ kissing is actually really into you, so you’re giving them false hope that you're into them too, and no one needs to be on that emotional rollercoaster; it always ends with crushing rejection. Sure, they might still have all of their limbs when they get off that ride, but they’ll have to spend a good few weeks scraping their splattered ego off of those rusty, metal railings (and no one enjoys being on either end of that lawsuit).

Even if you're ‘only’ kissing a total stranger, you're probably fucking over your friend who you’ve ditched. Despite the thumbs up they’re giving you, it's rare that someone is actually comfortable dancing on their own, whilst they watch their friend eat someone else's face.

Plus, if I’m brutally honest, nuns probably get more tongue action than me these days because I’m so over drunken kisses with people I don’t know, or care about. It might be a quick-fix for my ego, but all I’m left with is a lipstick-smeared face, an aroma of regret, and another friend request to ignore.

Nowadays, I only go out because I love dancing aggressively with my friends. If I get bored at any point, I’ll just go home and kitchen dance. I’ve got absolutely no interest in listening to bullshit chat-up lines, and I’ve definitely not got any interest in anything that stops me from aggressively dancing. And it’s genuinely really hard to snog someone whilst you’re trying to throw shapes to Stevie Nicks…trust me.

Although this does mean that I’m kind of stuck in some sort of Mexican standoff with myself, because I’ve got no interest in dating either. Honestly, the thought of having to re-download tinder makes me want to sew up my vagina. Even when I have dated, all it’s done is make me think more about the guys I’m actually into. In fact, the only date I truly enjoyed wasn’t even a was just food with a friend. But, because I’m still an embarrassing teenage girl, I’m going to call it a date (even if I’m 99.7% sure he only agreed to it so I’d stop bothering him on snapchat).  

Plus, I still can’t handle rejection. I’d much rather get stuck in a hot festival toilet, on a Sunday evening, than make a move with a guy I actually like. Sometimes, thanks to alcohol, I’ve been stupid enough to admit that I accidentally caught feelings. But, thanks to alcohol, I’ve been as subtle as an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.5. Needless to say, my drunken confessions didn’t shake their world.

So, due to my recent prudishness and my British awkwardness, it’s looking quite likely that I will become one of those cat ladies your parents worn you about. It’s a future that’s particularly worrying for me; cats terrify me (it’s one of the main reasons I’ll never be internet cool).

Secretly, I’m kind of hoping that it’s all just a weird phase, and that I’ll get myself a good snog soon. I’m already beginning to worry that saying ‘I only kiss my nephew’ is making me even more of a social outcast.

But, if it’s not a phase, there’s always the back of my palm, and my Josh Homme phone background.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Who ate all the pies?

A few years ago, it probably would've been me.

For those of you that didn't know me during the Chubgate scandal of 2009, I gained a fair bit of weight, and I gained it real quick. It all began when I was sixteen, and I hustled someone into thinking I was an appropriate choice for a full-time office job. Most of my time was spent staring at a computer screen, answering calls that I didn't really care about, and pretending that I was actually happy with my rash decision to leave college. It was hardly a strenuous job. The only time I needed to do any sort of physical exercise was when I walked to the shop to buy another boredom-relieving snack, or when I was forced to waddle quickly for the bus.

My weight gain escalated massively when I started to hustle bartenders with an ID that clearly wasn't mine. Honestly, I'll never know how they fell for it; the girl in the photo had lovely, dark olive skin, and I still have to buy foundation that's titled 'been dead a few days'.

What's actually really concerning is that I genuinely didn't realise how much weight I'd gained. In hindsight, it probably should've been a sign when I was trying on a dress I'd just bought, and I had to shout at my little sister to stand on my back, just so she'd be at a better angle to forcibly do up the zip (she still couldn’t do up the zip, so I was just left lying on the floor like a sweaty, and partially dressed, beached whale).  It also should've been a sign when my parents felt the need to use exercise as a 'consequence for my actions'. It most definitely should've been a sign when I was directly told by people that they were concerned about how much weight I'd gained. But, in a childish act of defiance, I actually started to eat, and drink, more. Needless to say, I didn't have the last laugh, especially when fitting into clothes from high street stores became a real struggle.

Looking back, I think that was the tipping point for me. When you’re on your own in a changing room, you do not want to get stuck in a dress; it's more intense than watching the first series of the Walking Dead. Sure, I could've blamed high street stores for not catering for larger sizes (which they don’t), but I'm not naturally a ‘larger woman’. I was only larger because I drank too much, and ate too many half-cooked pizzas after drinking too much.

Finally, I realised that if I carried on the way I was, I’d be forced to wear a bedsheet to work. Not in a cute toga way, but in an ‘I can only be carried by a crane’ kind of way.  I knew something had to change. But, ever since I discovered the 'rosebud' code on the Sims, I've been a sucker for a good cheat. So, instead of doing the normal thing of dieting and exercising, I took 'diet' pills for a week, which completely numbed my hunger. Yes, I did lose weight, but I also had to leave work early on the Friday because I was sicker than the girl from the Exorcist.

Worryingly, that didn't bother me; I was too pleased with my rapid weight loss to even consider the damage I was doing to my health. Losing weight became an obsession, and I started to weigh myself almost every day. Watching the numbers decrease on the scales was more satisfying than when I discovered that some guys didn’t actually use the classic ‘machine gun’ tactic.

The more weight I lost, the more obsessed I became. I started refusing to eat carbs, and my diet pretty much consisted solely of omelettes. At one point, I even stopped eating mayonnaise (for me, that's like refusing to shower regularly).

Sure, I lost a lot of weight and, to other people, I looked good, but I still didn’t feel good, and my ridiculously limited diet made me an irrational bitch. Once, when my sister came to visit, she ate the last of the eggs, and I was furious with her; despite there being a full fridge, I was convinced that I couldn't possibly eat anything else, and I definitely let her know about it (I know…such first world problems).

What's even more embarrassing is that sometimes I actually resented both of my younger sisters; they ate pretty much what they wanted, and they both looked like Swedish models. Whereas I thought I looked like Bruce Bogtrotter...on one of his good days.  

It’s pretty scary, but I was probably on the verge of developing an eating disorder. I’m ridiculously lucky that my love for homemade banoffee pie outweighs my need to be skinny.

I know there are healthy ways to lose weight, because I’ve done it. Two years ago, I spent the summer training aggressively; I was convinced you needed to be super fit to run a Tough Mudder (oh yeah, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’ve completed two Tough Mudders…I’m kind of a big deal). Even though it did feel great to be toned, and I absolutely loved that a strong lunge was my preferred mode of transport, I still wasn’t happy. Training took over my life. My evenings consisted of lots of tears and swearing, minimal laughter, and definitely no frolicking (my absolute favourite thing).

Towards the end of the summer, I stopped training, because I remembered how great it is to see your friends regularly, and I’ve not regretted it. Since then, I’ve realised that it’s okay not to have the ‘perfect figure’. I enjoy pizza and rum way too much to be one of Victoria’s Angels anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it’s important to eat well (most of the time), and to exercise (sometimes). Apart from the fact it massively helps your ego, it’s good to look after your body a little bit. But, I do strongly believe that it’s important not to judge yourself by what you look like. Honestly, it makes you so much happier. Of course, it’s not always easy; we’d all like to look like Daniel Craig when we come out of the sea, but it really is okay to be more of a budget Bond.

At the end of the day, unless you’re making it rain all the way to the bank, you can’t really change your appearance too drastically (even if you can, there’s always a risk you’ll fall into Pete Burns’ footsteps). And surely, isn’t it better to be surrounded by people that love you, rather than by people who only find you visually appealing? We can’t all be Will Smith, or Paul Rudd; there’s a high chance we’ll end up looking pretty haggered one day, and I’m 74% sure that my three friends will still want to hang out with me then.

So go ahead: skip that boxercise class, frolic with your friends, and rock those short shorts.
You've got this.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

A cheeky Nando's, a badly timed flash, and an outrageous ego.

When I was a child, my boyfriend (who was also a child) gave me a bag of peach rings for Valentine’s Day. When I say that he gave them to me, I mean that he handed them to me as if he was dealing smack (they do start young in Grimsby), and then he ran away. It later transpired that his mother forced him to give me the bag of sugary heaven. It was then that I realised how much of an influence some mothers have, and how much of a forced affair Valentine’s Day is.

I know it’s easy for a single girl to say that she hates Valentine’s Day, but I really do. I hate Valentine’s Day when I’m single, and when I’m not single. I may be into organised fun, but Valentine’s Day is too organised, and it’s never as fun as you think it’ll be.

My first, and only, Valentine’s Day that I’ve ever celebrated was with my first boyfriend. I went to visit him at his University, and he took me out for a cheeky Nando's (because we were obviously total lads). Our chicken was too hot, and we spent the entire meal crying. If it was any other night, we probably would’ve laughed at how absurd we must’ve looked to everyone else. But, because it was Valentine’s Day, we both refused to admit that we were having a terrible time, and didn’t even mention the fact that we were both violently sweating.
On our way back to his place, we bumped into a guy from back home. When this guy found out that my boyfriend had taken me to Nando's for Valentine’s Day, he mugged off my boyfriend royally. My boyfriend’s spirit was crushed. Our night ended with me trying to convince my boyfriend that I wasn’t going to dump him just because he didn’t take me to a fancier restaurant. Really, if he knew me at all, he would’ve known that I enjoy any free food. Apart from anything tuna based, because tuna doesn’t come from the sea; tuna actually comes from the fiery pits of hell.
From that night on, I’ve seriously disliked the social pressure that comes with Valentine’s Day, and I’ve not gone out of my way to celebrate it. Sure, I’ll still buy a card and write something less insulting than normal in it (I’m secretly a massive softy), but I hope that I’ll never become someone who expects a huge bouquet of flowers, and a night of forced romance. Although I’ll never say no to breakfast in bed, because breakfast is the best meal of the day, and it’s even better in bed.   

Even though I don’t like the idea of Valentine’s Day, it’s hard to avoid it completely. It’s especially hard when you’re extremely single, and people in happy relationships are flaunting their horrid happiness in front of your bitter face. A friend asked me this week if I’d like a boyfriend now, and it was hard to answer. I truly believe that being in love with someone, who loves you too, must be great. But I think quite often, people (including myself) are with someone because they love the idea of having someone to love, rather than loving the actual person. I’ve made a lot of cock-ups in my past (pun intended), and I think I’m finally beginning to learn from them.
Everyone has a list of qualities that they’re looking for in an ideal partner. When I was younger, I would’ve wanted a guy to have been tall, good-looking, and ‘cool’. Given that I was donning an impressive mullet, and I’ve always been terribly uncool, I was asking for a lot.   

If a guy fit this description, I’d be keen to impress him, and I was easily persuaded into sending a nude. Unsurprisingly, sending nudes to a guy never blossomed into a beautiful relationship. At best, there might have been some heavy petting, and some awful foreplay. I could talk the talk, but I definitely couldn’t handle a handy.
That’s not where the embarrassment ends. One night I’d drank an excessive amount of Lambrini in a field (I’ve always put the class into classy). I was only sixteen, so I obviously had to be home by 11pm. When I got home, I thought it’d be a great idea to send a nude to this guy that had been asking for one. For the record, if a guy I barely knew asked for a nude now, there’s a high chance they’d just get a picture of a Chewbacca (although, when I haven’t shaved, that's actually an accurate nude for me). Back in 2007, I was naïve, and I stupidly thought that if a guy asked for a nude, it must mean that he likes you.

Anyway, back to the Lambrini fuelled photo shoot; due it being 2007, the only way to get a good selfie on your phone was to put it on self-timer and stand on the other side of the room. Due to the excessive amount of Lambrini, I didn’t hear my dad approach my bedroom. He opened the door, just as the flash on the phone went off, and I was naked. So, so naked.
Needless to say, my dad didn’t believe the ‘oh, I just wanted to see what I looked like’ excuse. It might’ve been more believable if I didn’t have a full length mirror in my bedroom, but I did, and my dad wasn’t falling for my lies. Thankfully, he was too embarrassed to question me further, and rapidly left my room. Seriously, the only other time I’ve seen my dad move that quickly was when I was drowning in our local swimming pool.  In that moment, otherwise known as the mortifying flash incident of 2007, I bet he wished that he’d left me struggling in the deep end.  
When I grew up a little bit, I stopped sending nudes to sleazy guys, and I got really into guys with tattoos and beards. Yeah I know, I was more cliché than girls who go wild with Ben and Jerry's and trashy rom-coms (which I also did, and still do).
If you haven’t realised already, I was pretty superficial, and I’d immediately like a guy if they were nice to me. My second boyfriend was bearded, heavily tattooed, and ridiculously into me. On paper, he was exactly my type. In reality, we didn’t really have much in common. During our relationship, I slowly became someone that I didn’t recognise. I stopped seeing my friends. I stopped adventuring, and causing minor havoc. I even stopped reading (I may have grew up in Grimsby, but I can still read ‘scratch and sniff’ books). All of my time was spent with my boyfriend, and I genuinely couldn’t tell you what we did.

Whenever I did see old friends, they knew that I wasn’t happy. It just took me a while to admit that when I said ‘maybe it’ll get better’, I was just trying to convince myself. It wasn’t going to get better, because he wasn’t into me. He was into the version of me that he’d created in his mind.  
Eventually, we broke up, but it was my most recent ex that taught me the most valuable lesson (I use the word ‘recent’ very loosely). When we broke up, I wasn’t devastated because it was over (it was a mutual split), I was devastated because she wasn’t bothered by it, and my ego couldn’t handle it. Eventually, I learnt that you shouldn’t let someone else’s opinion of you impact your own self-worth (unless you are actually a complete tosser). Just because someone isn’t that into you, it doesn’t mean that you’re not attractive, or that you’re a complete bore.
Being single has been great for me. I’ve learnt to be myself, and to be comfortable with who I am. Weirdly, my ego has never been better, which might surprise some (my hair is shitter now, and I’m slightly chubbier than I was a few years ago). It’s great, because I no longer fall for people just because they compliment me. Nor would I stop being myself to simply please someone else.

Nowadays, if I was to become someone’s girlfriend, I’d want to really know them first. I’d want to know that they won’t tell me off too much when I gate-crash the stage at a gig. I want to know that they’ll never tell me that I’m too old to suggest a game of pancake tennis. I definitely don’t want them to put me on a pedestal, because I’d want them to mug me off. I’d want them to argue with me, and to tell me when I’m wrong. Most importantly, I’d want them to aggressively dance with me, and to still love me when they’ve seen how unattractively competitive I get when I play any game, especially Cluedo.
I strongly believe that your boyfriend, or girlfriend, should be your best friend. Except, unlike a best friend, they should want to have adult sleepovers with you…all of the time. There’s a chance that my expectations are too strongly based on Jim and Pam’s relationship from The Office, and that I’m being way too unrealistic. Honestly, I’d much rather be stubbornly delusional than terminally unhappy.

Don’t get me wrong, being single isn’t always great. Sometimes being single can really suck. It sucks when the guy you’ve fallen off for will only ever see you as a friend. It sucks when you can’t bribe someone into bringing you a tea in the morning. It most definitely sucks when you want to frolic, but your friends are too busy with their significant others. Despite these moments, being single will never be worse than being with someone just to prevent loneliness (in my opinion).
By moving to Manchester, I’ve learnt that Pat Benatar was wrong. Love isn’t a battlefield. It’s actually quite easy, even for a social novice like me, to find people to love. It only becomes a battlefield when you’re trying to find someone who wants to have regular adult sleepovers with you, and genuinely loves you too (yeah, I might’ve just written this paragraph to make it clear that I’ve somehow managed to make friends).

To all of my friends in relationships: I am genuinely happy for you, and I hope it works out.
To all of my extremely single friends: stop worrying, and embrace it. If you do ever get lonely, remember that you can always just sit on your hand, until it goes numb, and pretend for a moment that you do actually have a significant other.
Happy Valentine’s Day

Sunday, 17 January 2016

When are you going to grow up and get a real job?

This week, with the overwhelming loss of David Bowie, the world became a slightly less colourful place. Many people admire Bowie for his outrageous talent, and his majestic imagination. But personally, I believe that it's his brazen attitude to life that made him truly admirable. By defying the norm, Bowie became utterly heroic, and totally inspirational to so many people. For me, Bowie is a constant reminder that it can actually be pretty fucking great to go against expectations.

A few years ago, I lived with my boyfriend and worked a standard 9-5 job. My life was comfortable (as long as you ignore the fact that my boyfriend and I were genuinely living in a shed, in the back of his parent's garden). Back in my white-collar days, I had a routine, a fixed income, a pretentious car, and I knew who I'd be sharing a bed with every night. Tragically, I even knew when I should wear underwear that I hadn't owned since I was a teenager (apparently Topshop's 'Girl Boxers' weren't actually a turn on in the MySpace days of 2007, and the same knickers definitely weren't a turn on for my boyfriend five years later). Surprisingly to some, I was also even pretty good at my job.

According to the expectations of modern society, I had everything (apart from a bathroom). In reality, I had merely settled for an easy life, and I certainly wasn't enjoying it, so something had to change. Even Karl Pilkington, who is literally known for moaning, recently said that if you're not happy then you need to something about it.

It's not that I don't believe in donning a suit, and settling's just not what I want right now. One day, I might find myself working regular hours in an office again. I might even go home to a house that I actually own, and I might even end up having legitimate children. But for now, that day seems more unrealistic than Bill Nighy asking me if he can come round for an adult sleepover. Occasionally (very occasionally), I do secretly envy one of my oldest friends, who has happily settled, but that's mainly because her little girl is obscenely gorgeous. If I do ever have children, it's likely that they'll be mistaken as gremlins that managed to escape from the film set back in 1984.

Eventually, after a stream of ridiculous life choices and monumental cock-ups, I realised that I'd only be happy if I braved going against the grain. Finally, I stopped caring about other people's expectations, and I started to pursue a more creative career (which obviously means that I now work in a bar). Despite the fact that having an entire weekend off is now more rare for me than successfully shaving off all of my leg hair (I have a short attention span, and I'm unfortunately hairy), I'm significantly happier than I was a few years ago. 

Of course, when you've left home to try and pursue something different, there is always a risk that you'll fail spectacularly. Failure might mean that you'll end up having to move back home with nothing but great memories, and the challenging experience of trying to con a bunch of new people into being your friend. Saying that it'd suck to go back home, with your tail between your legs, would be an understatement, but you'd be okay eventually. You'd be okay eventually because you'll know that you tried, and there's no reason why you wouldn't be able to try again. Remember, even Bowie once released some absolutely awful material (if you disagree then you should definitely google 'The Laughing Gnome'), but he did eventually go on to blow everyone's mind.

Although I think I'm mainly saying that failing will be okay incase there does comes a day when I'm forced to inform my dad that I have to move back home, and that it'd be real stellar of him if he'd just tell any debt collectors that I've actually emigrated to an obscure mining town in Peru. Even though I don't care about money, you do apparently need to be able to pay your rent regularly. When your main source of income is your wage from a bar, you definitely won't make it rain all the way to the bank. In fact, it probably won't even lightly drizzle on payday.

Regardless of the uncertainty of what will happen (even within the next month), by deciding to give up my white-collar lifestyle, I've become the happiest version of myself. So, next time someone asks me if I'm ever going to 'grow up and get a real job', I'll be able to tell them, rather happily, that they should just piss off.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

What have you done this year, to make you feel proud?

I’m sorry Heather Small, but my list is quite short. Despite not being the winner of a Nobel Prize this year, 2015 has been absolutely outstanding. Although instead of rehashing stories, I thought it would be more insightful to reflect on some of the feedback that I’ve received throughout 2015.

‘You should just never talk’
Unsurprisingly, and rather worryingly, this hasn’t just come from one person. Honestly, I completely agree with them. It’s rare that I go a day without causing myself physical pain due to cringing so much over something I’ve said. I suffer awfully from word vomit, and I seem to be confidentially awkward; it’s not a great combination. Luckily, I don’t have a desk job, so I can literally just walk away whenever I regret opening my mouth. The only silver lining is that I seem to do a lot of extra cardio.

‘Your life is just like Bridget Jones’’
Secretly, I hope that my friend said this to me because he wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I managed to charm Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. In reality, he probably said it because I’m quite hopeless, carrying a little extra weight, and I shamelessly still listen to Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’. Although I’m really hoping that 2016 won’t end with me being locked in a Thai prison.   

‘Why do you laugh so much?’
This is probably one of the hardest questions that’s been posed to me, and I once taught children who ask the most obscure questions (yes, someone thought I was responsible enough to shape the minds of the future generation). My friend was in a terrible mood when he asked me this question, and I can’t help but feel like he meant it as an insult. I can’t remember how I responded, but I would like this opportunity to say ‘fuck you’ (affectionately…obviously). To me, laughter is one of my most favourite things. I love it when people have wonderfully infectious laughs, and I love it when people make me laugh.

‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but you seem like the kind of girl that likes mayonnaise. ‘
If this had come from a stranger in a bar, I might’ve thought that this was a pretty assumptive sexual innuendo. Thankfully, this came from a friend. He was right; I really do like mayonnaise. In fact, it’s probably one of my favourite condiments.
My friend’s assumption may have been based on the fact that I’m clearly not the kind of girl that asks for no dressing with her salad, even though I probably should once in a while. Or it could’ve been because I told him about the time that I got in after a night out, and ate an entire pack of fajitas wraps just with garlic mayonnaise. I still don’t understand why I’m not a healthy lifestyle poster girl yet.

‘You’re quite hard to please. I mean, you just don’t seem to be impressed by much.’
Originally, I struggled to understand why my sister had this opinion of me (I’m ridiculously pleased whenever someone buys me a bag of chocolate raisins). After giving it some thought, I realised that my sister was right; I’m not easy to please. I dislike it when people I hardly know compliment me because it seems shallow, and often leaves me feeling uncomfortable. I don’t massively care for material things, and I definitely don’t care about how much money someone has. I find it awkward, rather than comical, when vloggers pull silly faces during a make-up tutorial. I’m also not a great fan of people ‘getting to know me’ because I find serious conversations about myself quite difficult, and I'd much rather be mocked instead.  
Truthfully, I think I’m just impressed by things that aren’t as apparent. I’m impressed by people who are willing to stand up for themselves, and by people who aren’t desperate to ‘fit in’. I’m impressed by people who take risks, and are willing to try new things. I remember people who make sure that you get home ok, and care about your safety (even if they deny it the next day). I’m impressed by creativity, and by people who want to learn. This summer, I made friends with a guy who embodies a lot of these things. He didn’t care what people thought of him (which is why he could often be found rocking a crop top and dungarees), and he wouldn’t hesitate to include people (even if it sometimes backfired). For these reasons, he impressed me. Plus, it probably helped that he is one of the funniest people that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Outrageous, but hilarious.

‘You’re such a fairy elephant.’
This is a family favourite, and I hope it’s said with affection. My family will be the first to admit that I’m clumsy. There are even certain things in the house that I’m not actually allowed to touch. Even when I’m helping with the washing up, my dad will call for back up for the more fragile items.  I’m genuinely surprised that they haven’t shipped me off to charm school yet. I guess there’s always time. If I ever disappear, I’m not visiting Aunt Jean on the coast, I’ve been sent to charm school.

‘You’ll never be cool.’
This might’ve been someone’s opinion, but it’s also a fact. I own too many bumbags, I’m far too partial to dad jokes, and I’m allergic to cheap piercings. I’m just waiting, in vain, for the moment when being uncool becomes ironically cool.  

‘I admire the fact that you wear jeans when you go out. Isn’t it difficult to get guys to like you?’
This did actually come from a good friend. Even though I can’t help but feel like she was trying to drop a hint that I should dress more provocatively, I couldn’t help but feel a bit sorry for her. There was a time, thankfully a long time ago, when I would’ve gone out in outrageously painful heels and revealing dresses. I hated it. I’d feel ridiculously uncomfortable, and I’d often wake up with stubs for feet. Plus, I could never be a fake tan kind of girl because I’m so pale. Fake tan just makes me look like a rogue Oompa Loompa.
Eventually, I discovered that nights are so much more fun when you’re wearing shoes that won’t make you want to cry. It’s also a lot easier to aggressively dad-dance when you’re not concentrating on pulling your dress down, or checking that your nipples are still covered. And, if I’m being honest, I don’t go out with the hope of meeting a guy, so who honestly cares if a strange guy finds my body attractive or not?
‘Your puns are terrible.’
Honestly, this was the most offensive feedback that I received this year. Yes, I even found it more offensive than my first hate mail.

This year has taught me a great deal, and I’ve laughed an awful lot, but I’m looking forward to 2016. I’m hoping (rather optimistically) that there will be 366 days of frolicking, adventures, happiness, and ridiculous new tales to tell.

Happy New Year Everybody.