Keep making noise

So last night, this happened.

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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’?

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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?

Fuck.

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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*.

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

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And another.

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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.

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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.

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Being 30+

Turning 30
Here’s a picture of me turning 30

About what honest-to-god feels like 10 years ago I wrote a post about turning 29, in which I detailed my many and varied fears about turning the big 3-0. I’m now 31. Am I a different person? No. Am I thinner? Do I have better hair? No and yes (I think. I HOPE). Despite what they say about your 30s heralding a brave new world in the life of you, I still have the same fears and flaws as I did in my teens, and in my 20s. I didn’t get into cooking overnight (come at me, Super Noodles), I didn’t start scheduling coffee dates with my BFFs (it’s still Saturday night oblivion or bust) and so I certainly didn’t wake up on my 30th having magically gotten my shit together overnight. But during my Oscar-worthy 20s and 30th year, I did learn this…

  • Despite the unrelenting avalanche of #content banging on about the many qualities of being an introvert, it’s okay to be an extrovert. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid, vacuous or shallow; it means you enjoy other people’s company and THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, BUZZFEED.
  • Everyone – EVERYONE – embellishes the truth on social media. Pictures of smiling couples and beautiful blue infinity pools and Friday office beers and adoring fluffy cats are the veneer of a regular chipboard life. Comparison is the thief of joy, and that cat definitely shat everywhere after that photo was taken.
  • This time next year you’ll look back at photos and be like ‘Damn, I looked good’. Five years from now you’ll look back at photos of yourself from next year and be like ‘Damn, I looked good’. I wish desperately that I could go back in time and visit myself at university and say ‘YOU’RE NOT AS BIG AS YOU THINK YOU ARE, CHILD. WEAR WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT. YOU SO HOT’. And no doubt 35-year-old me will say the same thing to me now. Here we are.
  • Laser hair removal on your bikini line. Make the investment. Thank me later.
  • If someone invites you to something, be it a wedding or a house party via Facebook, don’t leave it to the last minute to RSVP. RUDE. And send a thank you card where decorum dictates for fuck’s sake.
  • More people have mental health issues than you know. Seriously, like 85% of my friends are in therapy or on happy pills. People can be cagey about it but it’s amazing how freely they’ll talk once they know they’re among ‘crazy’ company. I compare my happy pill prescriptions to my friends’ in the same way you might discuss your favourite Hollywood actors. Normalising it makes us all feel loads better.
  • While we’re on the subject, don’t be afraid to give therapy a try. I’ve been in and out my whole life but had the pleasure of working with a wonderful mindfulness-based practitioner during my last year in London. I was a po-faced, arm-crossed bitch when I went in, but I came out with an open heart and a better understanding of myself than I’d ever had before. A+, would recommend.
  • Talk to your parents while you can. Where were they born? What was school like for them? What was their first boy/girlfriend like? What was the best time of their life? Look through their old photos, ask questions. It wasn’t until my maternal grandmother died that we discovered there was a whole other side to our family that we didn’t know about, and by then it was too late to find out more.
  • Take two paracetamol with a pint of water before bed after a heavy night out. It ain’t gonna save your soul but it’ll take the edge off. As someone who could sell her liver to a Frenchman for pâté, trust me on this. Also, sleep longer than you think you’ll need to. Hangovers when you get older are less about the booze and more about the sleep deprivation.
  • Sort your eyebrows out. Seriously, the difference a good pair of strong brows will make to your face is ASTRONOMICAL. If in doubt, go to a Benefit Beauty Bar. I can be tired and hungover as balls but 30 seconds spent doing my eyebrows literally transforms my entire face.
  • It’s totally okay to be affected by conflicting media narrative, especially when it comes to women’s issues. I’m 31. Are babies on my horizon? Not immediately. Maybe even never. You’ve got the bloody Daily Mail saying one thing and The Debrief saying another. Make up your own narrative. It’s your damn body and your damn life. Fuck those guys.
  • Invest in good tights. Not the three for £5 tights from Primark, but the £5 for one pair tights from M&S. I used to be a one pair/one wear kinda gal until I got woke to false hosiery economies.
  • You know how most hairdryers have three heat settings, and because we’re all so time-starved and impatient we crank that shit up to 11? Step off and turn down the heat. I have long, coloured hair and this simple act was legit the kindest thing I ever did for my barnet. My hair is softer and smoother, and because I was more mindful about my blowdries I’d make the effort to pin up each section as I went along. It takes exactly the same amount of time, I promise.
  • If you don’t like something about yourself, you’re free to change it without justification to anyone, regardless of (omg, here it is again), the social narrative. I got my teeth realigned a few years back. ‘But why?’ everyone chirped. ‘They were fine!’ Because I wanted to, and that is literally all that matters.
  • Nothing will ever prepare you for a friend request from a high school friend when you’re 30+. ‘Fuck me, how did they get so old? Are they old? Am I old?’ And not long after you’ll start seeing the laughter lines and wrinkles on all your friends’ faces and you can’t unsee that shit. Hello, ageing.
  • If someone describes you as ‘bossy’, own it. It means you get shit done.
  • Thanks to Hollywood it’s super easy to romanticise adversity, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. But remember, we’re not all trying to save the planet from destruction / outwit a band of Russian mobsters / get into dance school AGAINST ALL THE ODDS. Sometimes difficult relationships are difficult because they’re wrong for you. That’s cool. It’s not up to you to ‘turn things around’. Shit is shit.
  • Isn’t it funny how successful people younger than you haven’t worked that hard, but older people that are more successful than you are just lucky, somehow?
  • If you take your makeup off properly before bed – and that’s PROPERLY, not a quick splash of some water and a face wipe – then you’re doing okay and TBH that’s all anyone can ask of you.
  • Being 30 is harder for women than it is for men. Of course it is, thanks to the ol’ social narrative I described above (aaand that’s a hat trick). That’s not to say blokes don’t have their own issues, of course, but when they start cocking their head to one side and saying things like, ‘But I’m actually looking forward to being 30 – I don’t know why you’re worried’, shut that conversation down and take it elsewhere lest you end up kicking someone’s dick off.

What pearls of wisdom would you give to other ladies worried about turning 30?