Friday, 25 January 2013

Lumley on Ladettes

Image courtesy of The Telegraph

The inimitable Joanna Lumley has apparently been speaking out about the 'ladette' culture of the youth today. She has blasted young women for dressing in inappropriate clothing and for getting falling down drunk, leaving themselves vulnerable to robbery or even rape.

At first, I read through the article with an indignant 'well, times change' attitude, but the more I think about it, the more I actually agree with her. And it's not just the girls that I think need to heed her advice.

Last week I wrote an article about binge drinking for a local website, but I completely neglected to point out how much danger we put ourselves in when we're inebriated. Our entire sense of judgement is compromised and our safety is at enormous risk. Just yesterday, I read an article on xojane.com in which a woman allowed herself to be bought drinks by a barman whilst travelling alone. What followed was the sexual assault of a very drunk and vulnerable woman by a completely sober man. It went unreported as she felt that the assault fell under a 'grey area'. She had allowed him to touch her out of shock and confusion and she went away feeling that she'd brought it onto herself by being so drunk in the first place. 

It's not just women who are at risk, either. Men are far more likely to be attacked or mugged when their guard is down. When is your guard lower than when you can barely even stand? 

It's a shame that we have to be told by our elders to curb our enjoyment, but such is the world we live in. The thought of a wasted girl, having spent all of her taxi money on shots, getting onto a night bus alone gives me chills. The risks are abundant, the world is a dangerous place.  There is a chance of being assaulted stone cold sober, I know, but this is raised considerably when your awareness is compromised and you're less able to fight back. You also hear, of course, of women who are raped whilst unconscious, often at parties and by people they know. It's just not worth taking that chance.

Going out and having a few drinks is fine, but don't put yourself in unnecessary danger. You have to look after yourself in this life, because no one else is going to.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

A New Year, A New Me

Me. Photo by Hannah Wheeler
2013 is officially in full swing, and the time has come to start honouring those New Year's resolutions. Did you make any? Have you broken them yet?

I never normally bother, knowing that any change I feel 'forced' to make will almost certainly be impossible to keep to. However, this year is different. This year I'm different. I feel more confident, independent and a little bit more in control of my life. I don't know if it's something that is happening with age or if it's to do with finally being settled, but I intend to take it and run with it.

My resolution is simply this: Get My Shit Together.

Up until now I have coasted through life like a teenager, without ambition or any sense of direction. I have also always been famously disorganised and incredibly untidy. I would always shrug off these negative qualities as being 'just part of me', but the fact is that I was scared of growing up. Scared of trying to better myself out of a fear of failure. That's no longer an issue. Suddenly I'm aware that I can do whatever I want as long as I'm willing to put in enough effort to achieve my goals.

First things first, I had to tackle my complete reluctance to tidy up after myself. I actually started this back in October when we moved into our new home. The bungalow looked so pretty that I didn't want to leave my clothes on the floor or washing up on the side. Of course, I still slip up occasionally (usually after a heavy weekend) but I know that it won't take me long to put right, so I get on with it rather than procrastinating for a week (or far, far longer).

The next obstacle to tackle was my lack of organisational skills. Particularly in regards to money. I'm terrible with money, basically because I have no will power. If I see a pair of shoes that I love, it won't occur to me to check whether I can actually afford them. I just buy them, and sod any bills that may also be due to come out that month. I'd think nothing of having a £50 night out every other week, despite the fact that I could barely afford to contribute to the food shopping. Moving put a stop to that sort of behaviour. Having lived with my parents for the past two years, we only had our rent to worry about. Now we have rent, council tax, water, electricity, gas and all of the other things that come with being responsible for your own home. It's also not just my home, if I fail to pay my half of the bills, it causes problems for Mr M as well. I'm also prone to just forgetting to pay. So, even if the money is in the bank, sometimes it takes a red reminder to give me a kick up the bottom. This is the year that all that stops. I have bought myself a box file for all of my bills and paperwork, I have reminders set up to help me with credit card and catalogue balances, and I have a spending log - a little notebook in which I itemise every little amount that I spend. More often than not, it's the small purchases that add up to debt. The odd five pounds that you spend and instantly forget about.

Having worked out a plan to get the basic areas of my life into some sort of order, I felt ready to take on the biggest challenge of all - my lack of ambition. 

As a little girl I always wanted to be a journalist. Somewhere along the line I lost confidence in my writing ability and, by my teens, I had no idea in which direction I wanted my life to go. At school I made plans to take my A-levels and go to law school. I never wanted to be a lawyer, but people were impressed when I told them that I did. However, lacking conviction in what I was doing, I dropped out of school halfway through my first year of sixth form. My parents were devastated. I had worked so hard and done so well up until that point and then just gave it all up. To them it seemed like a terrible waste of an education. For me it was an opportunity to take a step back and take time to work out what I wanted to do. It just took a lot longer than I expected.

I toyed with the idea of being an artist for a while, craving a creative lifestyle, but I always felt a bit like an imposter. Drawing my cheesecake pin-up girls was fun but I couldn't see myself doing it for the rest of my life. I certainly never felt like an artist. I could draw, I loved drawing, but it wasn't what I was. Just over a year ago, I began blogging. The response I got from friends was wonderful and has continued to blow me away with each piece that I publish. Slowly but surely my confidence has returned, and the path towards journalism is once again illuminated for me. It was always there, I just lost my way somewhere along the line.

In February I will be starting a BA in English Language and Literature. Without A-levels, the Open University was my obvious option for higher education and means that I can continue work, but they do not offer an undergraduates course in journalism. Degree or no degree, I need experience in order for future employers to take me seriously. That in mind, I contacted a local news website and offered my services. After presenting my blog as proof of my ability to string a few sentences together, I was offered a regular column (as well as the odd news feature to help the editor out). There's no money involved, but the sense of purpose I get when I'm researching or writing a piece is indescribable. There's truly nothing else I'm supposed to be doing.

So this year really is heralding a new start for me. One that doesn't leave an awful lot of time for myself, admittedly, but I've spent the past twenty eight years relaxing and resting on my laurels. It's time to get out there and show the world what I've got, because what I've got really is worth seeing.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Men Aren't the Enemy

Image courtesy of freelanceswitch.com

This piece is difficult for me to write for one very good reason. It's aimed at a certain type of single woman and I'm married. I'm fully aware that my relationship status makes me almost as much of an enemy as the male of the species, but I want to write a little bit about the issues they're facing and allowing themselves to suffer.

The type of singleton that I refer to is the man-hater.

First things first, I am in no way suggesting that anyone out there is unjustified in their hatred for the men who have done them wrong. I'm sure they deserve every ounce of venom that is directed at them, but I'm seeing an awful lot of 'tarring with the same brush' going on, and I personally believe that some single women are limiting their own potential for happiness.

Men truly are not the enemy. There are some very bad men who will hurt the women that they're supposed to love but this is not limited to just their gender. There are also some very bad women who will cheat, beat and leave their lovers. But there is also a whole world of wonderful people out there.

I'm sure some are reading this and thinking that it's easy for me to harp on about happiness and relationships, but of course life hasn't always been so rosy for me either. I've been involved with the nasty types myself but I've always been aware that, just because that man was a bad egg, doesn't mean that the next one will be. In fact, the men that have hurt me have made me who I am and played a big part in where I am now. I know exactly what I want from a relationship and I have no qualms about making that very clear. My husband knows exactly what I am willing to tolerate. However, it has also taught me that we are all only human and there are some mistakes that I would absolutely forgive. This doesn't mean that he takes advantage of the fact because, and this is key, he is a good person.

Good people are everywhere. Male or female shouldn't come into it. So, you've been hurt in the past? That doesn't mean that it is going to happen in every single relationship that you embark on. Of course it will happen in some, but that's just the risk that you take when you let yourself be happy. And that's the thing, isn't it? You have to let yourself be happy and, in order to do so, you have to let yourself feel. To feel you have to leave yourself open to being hurt.

So give the menfolk a chance. Don't let the few bad men you've encountered damage the entire reputation of the bunch. They're really not so bad.