Leaving dignity at the door


Have you seen my bare ass this week? No? Then you’re probably in the global minority. At least that’s how it feels.

It was just over a week ago that the eyes of a total stranger first gazed upon my exposed derriere. I’d been having unexplained coccyx pain so I went to the doctor who wanted to ‘have a quick look’, despite my confident assertions that there was nothing to see back there. Turns out that indeed, there was nothing to see, but a quick poke around at the base of my spine revealed there was in fact plenty to feel.

It was a morbidly embarrassing moment. Apart from boyfriends, my parents (when I was small) and one or two very close friends (when we’ve been rip-roaringly drunk and silly), no-one has seen my naked bum. And then there I was in a sterile, strip-lit room, lying on a weird-smelling table and facing the blindingly white wall with the goods hanging out. The very definition of exposed. And it was awful. My feminine modesty!

Fast-forward a week, the condition escalates to the point of hospital admission, and now I’m basically as comfortable dropping trou in front of total strangers as I am buying fags in that horrendous new packaging brandishing images of dead bodies and amputated legs – it’s not ideal, but here we are.

Your sense of dignity goes straight out of the window when you’re in terrible pain. After 14 hours without eating or drinking (doctor’s orders) I was still waiting for a hospital bed when a nurse wheeled a sandwich trolley past and I exploded into huge guttural sobs, like a child. I ugly-cried for the best part of an hour. Hilarious in hindsight, but at that moment a simple sandwich was, to my mind, the key to the end of all my suffering. I like to think I’d hold it together during torture, but the fact is, if I can be taken down by a sandwich I probably need to revisit my parameters of expectation. The denial of such a basic need resonated furiously in me at a very primordial level.

I was kept in for two nights. It was hot and stuffy and I had to wear decidedly-unattractive surgical stockings, so I slept in my sexy hospital gown and nothing else. But hooked up to various machines with wires poking out of me, plus brain-frying medication and already-limited movement meant getting up to go to the loo was a laborious undertaking. Adding pants or shorts to the mix was just an unthinkable complication, so as quickly as my intentions of keeping my hair neat and my face clean went down the drain, so did my butt modesty. Never in a million years would I parade through a public environment with my ass on show, but again, pain does funny things to you, so very quickly I didn’t give a crap. Apologies to the women on my ward who got a visual demonstration of this epiphany.

Of course, as a woman I’ve been taught to keep my natural bodily actions to myself. We’re not supposed to fart, or poop, or burp – hell, we’re not even allowed to sweat – and let’s not even talk about periods, so up until my hospital admission I’d been rather coy about the whole thing. “My back hurts”, I’d tell people. “I’m taking codeine but you know how that *makes a weird face and gestures downwards* can affect things.” Later, “The doctors have found an internal cyst – bit of an awkward position, chortle chortle!”

Again, this glossy veneer of social acceptability went straight to hell when the pain got too much. “Is this gonna affect my ability to poop?” I asked the surgeon dead in the eye before surgery. “I suffer from bad period pain and am due on soon, how can I manage both issues comfortably?” I was being pumped with fluids: “Excuse me, nurse, could you please tell me when I’ll stop pissing like a racehorse?” And I used the word ‘pus’ a lot. Yeah, it’s gross, I know. I danced around the reality of that for quite a while before the pain drove me to tears and by then I wasn’t fucking about. “WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO ABOUT ALL THE PUS?” I’d slur incoherently in my drug-addled state. Or on the second night, when I woke up and found my wound had burst open and I was lying in a pool of my own gore and the nurse – who also had human eyes – asked me what was wrong when I called for him at 4am: “I AM LEAKING GOO. THERE’S GOO EVERYWHERE. PLEASE GET THIS GOO OFF MY ASS” and then (slowly and with great effort) I flipped over to expose my goo-covered butt, pointing indignantly at it for even greater emphasis. LOOK. PLEASE LITERALLY LOOK AT MY ASS.

And now I’m home, and my hierarchy of needs, according to Maslow, has largely been reinstated. But every day a different nurse comes to the house to look at my ass and change my dressings and so even now any social decorum I’d previously had over such matters is long gone: the nurse isn’t just ‘changing my dressings’ *blush*, she’s unpacking a golf ball-sized wad of gauze from a wound just below the start of my bum cheeks and shoving a new one in and it’s gross and painful as hell, and I’ll have to deal with this every day for the foreseeable future. Tremendous.

Being coy about nudity and bodily ickiness is just another socially-manifested ideal designed to make everyone feel less uncomfortable about things, while simultaneously making a lot of people feel very uncomfortable about things. Perhaps if I’d been less entrenched in the accepted social ways of talking about RUDE BUM THINGS my grim ordeal would have felt a little less hideous, but here we are. At least now both myself and my bum are liberated.

Having a boyfriend isn’t going to fix your mental health, sorry


Most women my age have a favourite Disney heroine, or can name a Disney flick they loved most as a child. Mine was Snow White, largely, I think, because food was a strong theme in the film. Also, she had black hair at a time when the market was saturated with blonde Sleeping Beauties and Cinderellas. Basically, becoming a chubby goth was on the cards for me from the get-go.

It’s no revelation that these films have one pervasive ideology in common: women get saved by men. Hollywood basically exists because of this trope, and while Disney has gradually dialled down the helpless female protagonists, the idea that women are somehow incomplete without a man forms the basis for a huge number of movies (and books) churned out every year. It’s no surprise that this ideology is so entrenched in the social narrative.

So I guess I wasn’t too shocked when a well-meaning individual asked me recently if I was going to come off anti-depressants “because I have a new boyfriend”, the subtext being, I suppose, that I was ever so sad by my loser single self but now I am saved. As a woman with a partner, my life now has meaning so what do I need Prozac for?

This mindset is of course compounded by the relentless and hugely damaging romanticising of mental illness. This post, doing the rounds on social media, sums it up perfectly:


Mental illness is an intensely personal experience, and no matter how well someone knows you, they can’t rewire your brain. Because that’s what mental illness is – your brain is literally malfunctioning. It’s not feeling glum or sorry for yourself or being unable to ‘snap out of it’ or being dramatic or attention-seeking or anything else attributable to free will or personality. It’s a hardware fault.

I’m a fan of the tonsillitis analogy, having had the joy of experiencing acute and recurrent bouts throughout my 20s. It hits without warning, often for no obvious reason. You have no control over it, and it’ll generally get worse if left untreated. Just like mental illness. But all the times I was lying in bed with a fat face, swollen throat and volcanic temperature nobody ever told me to get over it or that I should be grateful because there were people out there sicker than me, and certainly no-one ever questioned my illness because I had a boyfriend. “You’ve got a boyfriend, so what do you need these antibiotics for?” The notion is absurd, but bears repeating because of the pervasive idea that mental illness isn’t a ‘real’ illness.

That’s not to say, of course, that your partner can’t influence your mental health, and it’s probably because a partner can have such a negative effect on our mental health that we’ve come to believe they can offer salvation in equal measure. Let’s go back to the tonsillitis analogy. If you’re lying in bed in pain and your partner calls you overdramatic or throws a strop because you won’t go on a 20-mile bike ride in the middle of winter (true story) or gets huffy because you don’t feel like having sex or makes snarky comments about your sweaty appearance, chances are you’re gonna feel considerably worse, right? This isn’t conducive to a swift recovery. If, on the other hand, they’re patient and forthcoming with hugs and are considerate of your needs and generous with the ice-cream, then your life is just a little bit easier. But the infection rages on either way, whether they’re there or not.

So no, well-meaning person, despite our culture’s questionable portrayal of romantic love as a route to personal salvation, having a boyfriend (as truly marvellous as is he – HI DARLING) probably isn’t going to magically cure my depression. That’s not a reflection on him, or our relationship. That’s just SCIENCE and FACTS, and when it comes to mental health it’s this we need to pay attention to, and not flowery rom-coms where love conquers all.

Keep making noise

So last night, this happened.


At what point have I invited attention here? Or is it the case that I’ve got my head down, keys between my fingers in my pocket, ignoring my boyfriend’s text messages lest I become distracted and vulnerable, trying to simply get the fuck home? It doesn’t matter, because as a woman on the street – a public space and by default a male space – I’m fair game.

The narrative between my female friends and I is tedious and exhausting. ‘I’m sorry you had to go through that’, we say with almost weekly-regularity. ‘That’s shit’. ‘Are you okay?’ ‘At least you got home safe’. At least you got home safe. Like the entirely feasible and almost unsurprising alternative is not getting home safe, and if you’re aware of my back story you’ll know that actually, not getting home safe is a very real and possible outcome. How many men message each other after a night out (or in fact after a bloody movie and a pizza at a friend’s house) with ‘Ah well, at least you got home safe’?


We don’t know what the fuck to say to each other anymore. The above placatory sentences are meaningless. ‘I’m sorry you had to go through that’ is meaningless. Of course I’m sorry my friends had to go through that. Any human female who’s deigned to walk unchaperoned in public has been through that. I’m a human female and the very fact that we’re friends indicates that I can’t tolerate that kind of shit. So… what? An eye-roll emoji? A fucking shrug? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  Do we seriously live in a world where our friends message us to say they feared for their safety and we’re like ‘AH WELL. C’EST LA VIE. At least you’re alive’, simply because it happens with such alarming regularity they may as well be talking about the weather?



So we make noise. We make noise about this bullshit in digital spaces and the results are mixed. Take, for example, an episode a few weeks ago when I challenged a man in a garage who deemed me too delicate and precious to put air into my own goddamn car tyres. I was called a hero and a feminist pioneer, but also a liar, a bitch and – tremendously – mentally unstable. The latter insults not just by men either, sadly, but by several women who subscribe to a form of institutionalised misogyny that – hands up – I think we’ve all been prey to at some point (‘I’m not like other girls.’ ‘I prefer to be friends with men because there’s less drama.’ ‘I’m a “cool” girl.’ And so on).

It’s deflating, absorbing the trolling and sexism and hatred that follows openly discussing your own experiences (after all, random strangers know better than you!). Here’s a good example from last night *slow hand clap*.


And here’s a Nice Guy™ who totally missed the point.




And another.


And I’m sure more bullshit will follow. But the important thing is that women keep making noise about this. Because until these digital spaces existed in which we now have the opportunity to make noise, this entrenched misogyny was all but invisible to our decent-thinking male friends, unless they witnessed it first-hand. And even then, well… How many times have you gone out wearing a ring on your left hand so men know you’re ‘off limits’? How many times have you gone out with a group of friends and some guy won’t leave you alone so you’ve asked a male friend to pretend to be your boyfriend? And how many times has the perp apologised to your ‘boyfriend’ for his behaviour, instead of you? The silver lining here – faint as it may be – is that in drawing attention to this issue we’re able to create a new awareness among men who don’t subscribe to this entrenched social misogyny. The fact is, they’re the ones with the power to change the situation.


So keep making noise, even if it makes people uncomfortable. Because you know what’s uncomfortable? A large 6’4” man angrily demanding a blow job on a dark street. A man staring at your ass as you inflate your tyres. A man punching you in the face because you’re trying to stop him beating his girlfriend to a pulp. A man smashing your head off a car bonnet simply because he’s having a bad day. Fuck anyone who pushes back against these experiences – and your experiences – because it makes them feel uncomfortable.

Keep making noise.

Seven lessons the new Ghostbusters movie would’ve taught the younger me


The original Ghostbusters movie came out the year I was born, so evidently I didn’t see it on its release. I think I was probably about five or six when I saw it for the first time, and my main takeaways from it and its sequels were:

  • What the hell is going on with Dan Aykroyd’s character and that ghost?
  • I’m never getting in the bath again
  • Probably never gonna look at any portraits again, either
  • Women need men to save them
  • Lol, Slimer

I also had a weird crush on Egon.

We can all agree that they’re super fun movies, and ones people my age revere so highly no doubt because they harks back to a simpler time (when we didn’t have to pay bills, or get cars repaired, or deal with performance reviews, or confront the hellish reality of our political landscape). Perhaps this is why so many people have a problem with the reboot? They don’t want their pure memories of carefree childhood bought into the modern age, where everything is a bit shit? That, and misogyny.

In any case, I’ve been thinking about what Younger Rachel would have taken from the new version. Without confusing blowjob scenes, damsels in distress and bizarre and premature sexual awakenings to deal with, I think these would have been my key takeaways. And I challenge anyone who has a problem with the reboot to say – hand on heart – they wouldn’t want their kids to experience the same.

Own your passion

Erin is quick to dismiss her book on ghosts, because she’s worried it’ll affect her chances of tenure. Because she’s worried people won’t take her seriously because of it. Because she’s worried it doesn’t project the socially-approved image she’s worked so hard to create. But in the end, her passion ends up saving the whole goddamn city of New York. At the beginning of the movie, she’s hella uncomfortable with Holtz’s dancing, but it’s not long before she’s doing awkward aunty dancing with Kevin. She is her authentic self for having followed her heart. Do the same, Younger Rachel.

Tough times reveal true friends

There’s a line somewhere in the film that goes: ‘Okay, scientists! And Patty’.’ As Erin says, they weren’t really looking for another member of the gang. But it wasn’t long before she was assimilated into their clique. In another, ghost-free, world, would they have all formed this unlikely friendship? Probably not, but that’s just how it goes. Some of my very best friendships have sprung from the oddest places.

If at first you don’t succeed…

…make like Holtz and keep on trying. Every gadget needed a tweak here and there, and each led to the creation of a bigger and better invention. If she’d downed tools at the first hint of adversity, everyone would be fucked.

You can always learn from your elders… and from those younger than you

Don’t use age as a yardstick for wisdom. Look at Holtz and her ‘mentor’ at the end of the movie. Their scene together lasted about 30 seconds but in it they learned something important from each other.

Always question those in positions of authority

Look at what’s going on in America and the UK right now. How many headlines are borne of misplaced trust in politicians, law enforcement agencies, judicial systems and even the media itself? As the hapless mayor in Ghostbusters shows, people in power do not always have society’s best interests at heart. Younger Rachel; engage with these individuals, speak up and ask questions, but don’t take everything they say as gospel.

Men, though

I can’t be the only one who thought our boy Rowan smacked of Nice Guy. ‘Waah, life has been unkind to me so I’m going to react in a hugely disproportionate manner then they’ll be sorry.’ Kudos to the casting unit for choosing someone who looks so stereotypically jemble, by the way (if you have a problem with this statement pull up a chair and let’s talk about the character of Janine Melnitz – and indeed Dana Barrett – in the original movie). Younger Rachel, you’ll encounter a lot of pissbaby men in your adult life – and indeed men who masquerade as something else in order to fulfil their objectives. Don’t stand for it – send ‘em to hell.

Don’t leave your keys in the car

But if you do, it’s not the end of the world. As the movie showed, sometimes your biggest mistakes lead to the biggest successes.

Update: This post has been edited to reflect my memories from the original trilogy, not just the debut film. Thanks to everyone for pointing that out – this is how we learn.

Upgrading the meltdown

In May 2014, I went off the rails. I walked to the nearest hire car place in my pyjamas, threw my credit card at the bewildered girl behind the counter and spent a week driving around the UK, staying in bleak Travel Lodges, passing the evenings staring at identikit wallpapers and wondering why they had plants in reception when no-one could be bothered to water them.

Almost exactly two years later, and I’m in a similar situation. Mercifully this time I have my own car, so I’m not condemned to spend my time on the road listening to the one CD I found under the passenger seat on repeat (T’Pau’s ‘China in Your Hand’, hilariously). I’m also wearing actual clothes, and can report that I’ve been nowhere near a Travel Lodge. Meltdown deluxe, if you will.

Except it’s not a meltdown. Not this time. Yes, the catalysts in both scenarios are largely the same – people disappoint you, life goes awry, you get lost – but two years ago I was trying to run away from it all. It was a pretty futile exercise, really; as goes the old saying: ‘Everywhere you go, there you are’. It didn’t matter whether I was sitting in a roadside service station in Derby or by a river in Shropshire, my stupid brain, and all the anxiety and desperation and fear slamming around in it, was along for the ride whether I liked it or not.

And so, to now. “I can’t believe I’m in this place again,” I announced to myself between heaving sighs and moments spent consciously unclenching my jaw. But as I careen aimlessly through the Welsh Valleys and English countryside I realise that to disbelieve this fact is as ludicrous as disbelieving my hand in front of my face. Specific misfortunes are not like the chicken pox, unfortunately. Enduring them once does not make you immune to them again.

But, you do build up a resilience, and so my unscheduled adventure this time is less about outrunning the gremlins licking at the corners of my consciousness and more about talking them down. Not yelling at the barking dog but feeding it, walking it, brushing its coat. It’s time consuming stuff, but it makes the barking stop.

10 really easy ways to feel a little less shit when you’re feeling phenomenally shit

Grief, heartbreak, depression… whatever your melancholic poison, most of us find ourselves up against it at some point in our lives, and despite my irreverent and 100% always cheerful demeanour on social media, I myself have been plagued by the black dog since I was a teenager. And it’s fucking rubbish.


Hyperbole and a Half

The internet is awash with self-help articles endorsing self-care and self-kindness in times of emotional turmoil, and these are largely great. But the fact is, when you wake up in the morning and simply cannot fathom getting out of bed, let alone doing functional human basics such as washing yourself and eating breakfast, signing up to purifying yoga courses or making gratitude scrapbooks can feel a bit above your current pay grade. I’ve no doubt that exercise releases a whole bunch of endorphins, and that cooking a meal from scratch is relaxing and fulfilling, but they’re not realistic suggestions for someone who’s really in a hell of a funk. These are, though:

  1. Nap ON your bed, not IN your bed

You don’t have to tell me how tempting it is to crawl back into bed once you’ve overcome the seemingly gargantuan task of getting out of it on dark days. But if bed is where it’s at for you at that moment in time, make a point of straightening the duvet out and lying down on top of it (you don’t have to fuck about with hospital corners or perfectly plumped pillows or whatever). This helps draw a line between day and night time, which is good for both your psyche and your propensity to get up and amble around a bit without feeling like you can’t because you’re hunkered down for the day.

  1. Organise your washing up

If you’ve got a load of dirty plates and mugs lying around, that’s good because it means you’re eating (high five). But it’s also crap because unless you have the energy and motivation to wash it up, you gotta look at a load of mess all day. Take just a minute to organise all the dirty stuff into a pile. Stack plates atop one another and take the used mugs out of the lounge or bedroom. You don’t have to wash it up right now, but by minimising the surface area it takes up – and having a neat pile ready for when you do feel up to it – you’ll feel more in control of the mess.

  1. Go outside

Even if it’s just for a few minutes while you smoke a fag or have a cup of tea. Or even just shove your head out of the window for a second. Get some of that D on your face and fresh air in your lungs.


A Zillion Dollar Comics
  1. Copy/paste replies to friends

I can tell when I’m on the cusp of a wobble because suddenly every form of communication from my friends seems like a huge infringement on my time and space – simply because I feel under pressure to respond. I know, right? How hard is it to type out a few sentences of chit chat? Thanks, depression! In any case, I’m hella lucky to have lots of good friends that check in on the reg, and so if I start feeling stressed out by that – or by that one unread Whatsapp that I know I have to respond to at some point but which continues to flash up on my notifications list like a fucking Windows 10 reminder – then I take five minutes to type out a generic reply along the lines of ‘Hey, today is not the one but I’m okay. How are you?’ and then blast it to all of them. It lets them know I’m not lying face down in a bar somewhere but also that I’m not feeling super chatty. They’re my friends, they get it.

  1. Put on some clean clothes

They don’t have to be clothes-clothes, like going-outside-and-functioning-in-society clothes, but just something that’s not pyjamas. Or more specifically, not the pyjamas you’ve slept in. Just something comfortable that doesn’t smell of night sweat and tears. For me, it’s usually a questionable band t-shirt and a pair of jeggings (I always said I’d never stoop to those, but here we are, I’m leaning into it). Hardly the attire of a consummate professional, I know, but if my mind is in the bin then the simple act of getting out of pyjamas and putting on a different, clean, comfortable outfit is a significant game-changer. This is why the whole ‘loungewear’ thing is doing such a roaring trade, I’m sure of it.

  1. Keep face wipes by your bed

I’m quite fastidious when it comes to my skincare regime, having spent the equivalent of a small country’s GDP on various Clarins serums. But on days when I just don’t give a shit and the faff of cleansing, toning and moisturising seems so utterly pointless in the grand scheme of things, I’ll haphazardly smush a cleansing wipe around my face before beginning my nightly routine of sighing forever into a pillow. Dr Jart would be horrified, I know, but a partially-cleansed face is better than one laden with the dirt of a day’s difficult existence (and more importantly, it helps you feel like you’re still in control of personal grooming basics).


  1. Stretch

For someone with such an otherwise horrendously unhealthy lifestyle, I sure do like yoga a whole lot, and I think there’s a great deal of stock in the idea that we carry our emotions physically, particularly in times of acute suffering. Grief, sadness and anger can harden around us, especially if we spend hours on end curled up in the foetal position. Stand up, stretch it out. Just move to the other side of the sofa, even. Don’t let the blues get into your bones.

  1. Have some fruit

Eat a banana, dribble an orange into your mouth, mix your vodka with pear juice, whatever – anything to remind your body that it’s a living organism and not a grunting trash receptacle for bread dipped in anything runnier than bread.

  1. Have a glass of water

All of those tears have gotta come from somewhere, right? And even if you’re not physically crying yourself into a raisin, being dehydrated makes you crabby and sleepless and headachey, which is just a whole bunch of nope considering everything else you’ve got going on. Get your hands on a water bottle if you can – that way you can have it in bed with you / on the sofa / rolling around the floor of your kitchen as you lie face down under the counter.

  1. Download this app (or something like it)

For some people, sleep cannot come soon enough at the end of a difficult day. For others – like me – it’s an elusive fucker camouflaged by icky thoughts and unpleasant feelings that spring into action the minute my head hits the pillow. So out comes the phone and endless hours of scrolling in a bid to distract myself. I KNOW. This ain’t the healthiest way of dealing with things and yes, there’s no end of evidence to show that playing with your phone before bed is a guaranteed ticket to insomnia city, BUT, you gotta do what you’ve gotta do to get by, right? So, if you are going to dick about with your phone until exhaustion finally overwhelms you, some kind of blue light-inhibiting app will help take the edge off your already wired and overwrought brain.


Can we discuss the infidelity narrative around Lemonade for a second?


I’m not the biggest fan of Beyonce’s music. There, I said it. Send over the angry mob.

It seems that I never really grew out of my tortured alt-kid phase, so even now at the grand age of 31, times of emotional turmoil are more likely to see me lying face down on the floor listening to Placebo or Ill Nino than the heartfelt and empowering lyrics of Queen Bey. It’s just personal taste.

Nonetheless, I recognise that Beyonce is a fucking phenomenal woman, and an absolutely critical role model for all women during these dark times – few will take such a central place in the cultural history books than she, and her recent surprise visual album drop is testament to that.

Did Jay-Z cheat on her? No-one can say for sure, but the themes running throughout Lemonade – and of course the unrelenting media speculation – would suggest something was up. And she owned it. She took all the pain, anger, sadness and desperation of infidelity and turned it into a defiant masterpiece from which others can derive strength and comfort (which is unquestionably more important than the musical offerings of white boys whinging about their high school girlfriends). When life gives you lemons, make lemonade AND THROW IT IN LIFE’S EYES, right?

So this is the dominant social narrative to come from Lemonade thus far. But there’s another line of thought simmering away among the noise – one voiced by young women in particular.

“If Beyonce gets cheated on, what hope is there for me?”

A jokey, throwaway remark designed to get a few RTs, right? Maybe, but its underlying context nonetheless is that in order to be worthy of love and fidelity, you need to be rich, ultra-talented and gorgeous. That you always have to be your very best you (and then some) in order to enjoy some pretty basic relationship fundamentals, such as trust and respect. Come up short against these exhausting and relentless requirements and, oh well, what did you expect?

The focus of Jay-Z’s alleged infidelity has been put on her: She’s so hot and talented, what could she have done that would mean he cheated on her? And this is total, utter bullshit. His infidelity has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with him and his alarming lack of morals and yet the internet is awash with jokes about him being caught out – when really, he needs to be held to account – and, worse, commentary from young men applauding his ability to bed a number of hot women at once. There aren’t nearly as many bloody lemon emojis plastered over his social media accounts than there are on Rachel Roy’s (or Rachel Ray’s for that matter – idiots), but that’s an entirely separate – and equally problematic – issue.

Lemonade is Beyonce’s battle cry in the face of one of the worst betrayals the human heart can bear, and it’s vital that we shape its infidelity narrative (and all infidelity narratives) around the shortcomings of the cheater, not the cheated. Listen to the album. Listen to the lyrics. This is the message Queen Bey is pushing here, and one that even I, with my predisposition to whiny, introspective guitar bands, can derive great strength from.