Rowling is a self-avowed liberal who gave a million pounds to the Labour Party in 2008, but her values are Tory through and through. In her books it is the hoary old white guys who run everything; women are popped in here and there for liberal flavor. (The Awl)
A 13-year old girl starts to hyperventilate, tears squeezing in raw trails over her frightened face, unable to tear her face away from the fight - I put a hand on her back and hurry her away from the police line, Her name is Alice, and she is from a private school. “Just because I won’t be affected by the EMA cuts doesn’t mean I don’t care about the government lying,” she says, “but I want to go home now. I have to find my friend.” (New Statesman)
As an Asian American, you rarely hear about girls who are “plus sized”… I really think it’s almost a matter of denial in our culture. Asian women are supposed to fit in the “cute china doll” stereotype and if you do not meet those standards you are ignored altogether. Growing up I never had an Asian American plus size role model to look to be an example of how to deal with size issues. So I’m here to say that we do exist and there are more of us than you might think. (Plus Model Mag)
"Rock Royalty" is the term that the fashion press uses to describe these phlegmatic youngsters and it couldn’t be more apt. As social mobility implodes, we have once again become a society that openly fetishises heredity, aristocracy and class. The real royal wedding is shuffling towards us like the terrifying reanimated corpse of deferential 1980s austerity culture, but in fact we’ve been comfortably obsessed with the couplings of high-society debutantes for years. (New Statesman)
[W]hile I’m not opposed to celebrating sartorial creativity or offended by youthful beauty, seeing oneself celebrated in purely pictorial form can be detrimental to a girl’s self-perception. I’ll let you – and them – decide if I should post it or not. (Girl With A Satchel)
My great love is for Hermione Granger, one of Harry’s best friends, a girl born to human parents with magical abilities, who I believe is perhaps the greatest and most progressive popular romantic heroine of a generation. When makeover narratives were the single most prevalent romantic storyline in popular culture, Hermione got the guy in the library, dressed up for the Yule Ball, and returned placidly to her regular routine. Hermione didn’t transform herself because she never particularly felt the need to be transformed. (The Atlantic)
Some quick, somewhat disconnected, thoughts on introversion and extroversion.
1. Monkeytypist wrote yesterday that he was smiling, because “[s]ome extrovert somewhere has seen the ‘caring for your introvert' piece [in The Atlantic] and written ‘caring for your extrovert’, missing the point rather spectacularly in true extrovert style.”
2. Certainly, if you actually read the Atlantic article (and I suspect many extroverts haven’t, despite its popularity) you can see that, in our culture, extroverted behaviours are considered the norm, and introverted behaviours are read as “‘guarded’, ‘loner’, ‘reserved’, ‘taciturn’, ‘self-contained’, ‘private’ — narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality.”
3. And on the cultural point, I think the article is right. Contemporary Western culture - and particularly contemporary Western youth culture - is hugely geared towards extroversion. Ostensibly, my thesis is about sex, but it also connects hugely to what it means to be young, fun and therefore socially validated: traits that hinge on being visibly social and visibly socially successful. UK academic Clare Hollowell has done some interesting research on this.
4. Still, understanding isn’t just about recognising other people’s preferences, it’s about having empathy for them. Introverts who dismiss extroverts’ need for engagement are no better than extroverts who fail to recognise and respond appropriately to need for peace.
5. And just as an introvert might jar at an extrovert’s seeming insistence at engagement, so too will many extroverts jar at an introvert’s refusal to engage. An extrovert’s desire to engage may seem petty, irritating or unnecessary to a true introvert, but an introvert’s lack of responsiveness can leave this extrovert at least feeling genuinely wounded and confused.
6. This is why I rather like the Myers Briggs personality test, as dorky as it is. Because when someone’s behaviour is jarring or confusing to me, I can think about what their preferences might be, and gain a better understanding of why they might be behaving that way, or what they might be feeling. (I’m an ENFP, for the record, which probably explains the aforementioned wounding and confusion.)
7. Most people fall somewhere along a continuum. Most introverts I meet aren’t cold or abrasive. Most extroverts I meet would quickly be drained were they dumped in, say, the Big Brother house. Just as some of Monkeytypist’s best friends are extroverts, many of my best friends are introverts.
8. I also wonder about the extent to which our preferences are influenced by time and environment. As a child, I would almost certainly have been defined as an introvert: I read lots of books, didn’t have many friends, and won the award for “quietest” at one friend’s birthday party. As a young adult, I was unquestionably an extrovert: always socialising and involved in everything. Over the past couple of years, I feel myself veering again towards a slightly quieter lifestyle. I wonder if bullying quashed my childhood sociability, or if my early twenties were an anomaly.
9. That said, I am going on something of an “extroversion binge” while the boyfriend is in Australia for the next week and a half, doing all the “fabulous” things that excite me terribly, but which would exhaust me if I attempted to do them every week.
Just a quick political generalisation, don't mind me.
Conservatives believe that the world - how we behave, who and what we value - is the way it is for good reason.
Rich people are rich because they’re smarter/better/work harder. Women are just naturally less interested in high profile/powerful positions than men are. Marriage is between a man and a woman, etc etc.
Progressives believe that the world as it currently is, is not the best world it could be: that it can and should be reformed.
I got thinking about this when a friend of mine emailed me in response to my post on marriage last week. In the post, I talked about three different categories of personal, political and ethical values: the things you value because you genuinely care about them (good), the things that feel real to you on an emotional level but which you wouldn’t have valued had you not been socialised to value them (dubious, but sometimes harmless), and the things you don’t actually value at all, but you feel manipulated into doing and might end up doing just to please other people (bad).
My friend asked me why the third category was necessarily bad. I ignored him at first: partly because I thought he was baiting me, and partly because he hadn’t responded to my own email a couple of weeks previously querying why, as a self-described libertarian, he supported economic freedoms, but not social freedoms (he’d just published a post on the importance of social conservatism for libertarians).
His question stuck with me, though. It seemed to illuminate some of the differences between his politics and my own.
Judging from his question and his recent post, it seemed to me that he believed that social and cultural norms existed for a reason: they served a valuable and necessary regulatory function. He did not believe in state regulation, but personal or social regulation? Sure thing.
For me on the other hand, social and cultural norms are comparatively arbitrary: they’re not a good unto themselves, but rather, something that I should question, determine the source of, and only apply to my life if they match with my own set of values and beliefs.
This isn’t a question of selfishness or a lack of concern for other people: it’s simply a manifestation of my belief that whatever the majority - or the people who shout the loudest - believe and value might not be right.
These questions might be too complex to divide neatly along political lines - and no doubt, my analysis is somewhat biased in favour of social liberalism - but it struck me as a difference that could in part be attributed to our different political philosophies.
It’s funny to think that sometimes it ends up that the girl fakes it just so the guy can fake it. What a perfect representation of performative sex. Both partners are so strictly adhering to an expected script that they become outside observers to their own sexual encounter. (Broadsheet)
First of all, has the poor girl in school ever won Prom Queen? Was that in some 80s movie somewhere? As someone actually in the dork caste in my high school, I can assure you that the boundaries of who got those kind of awards were closely monitored, usually by people like Bristol Palin, who had powerful parents, lots of money, and super jock boyfriends. But it was telling of what a cipher the Palin family has become. They’re obscenely rich millionaires who run small town feuds on a level beyond what I ever saw with people trying to establish fiefdoms in the small town of my youth, but in the imagination of their fans, Sarah Palin is basically Dolly Parton—-a scrappy poor girl who grew up with no shoes but became a big star on talent alone. And Bristol Palin, too, though more as an afterthought. (Pandagon)
You can admire anyone for being themselves. It’s hard not to, when everyone’s so good at it. But when you think of them all together like that, how can you choose? How can you say, I’d rather be responsible like Misha than irresponsible like Margaux. Responsibility looks so good on Misha, and irresponsibility looks so good on Margaux. How could I know which would look best on me? (n+1)
Not every young girl experiences herself as an object of desire. But virtually every young girl is aware that young women are “supposed” to be desired. Unprecedented opportunities to compete on an equal playing field educationally, socially and financially with men have done damn all to release young women from the pressure to be sexually alluring. And given how blunt and brazen so many of their male peers (and, sadly, so many much older men) are about what they want sexually, it’s little wonder that developing one’s own sexuality is often a much-later development than developing one’s sexiness. (Jezebel)
At that point, I just wanted everyone who saw me to think, “She’s engaged.” Which they did. And then they had to admire the ring and talk about it a lot. And I twisted it automatically around when I was walking home alone at night. When I was on the subway, sometimes. I found myself keeping my hand in my pocket. I somehow kept forgetting to put it on when I went out to run errands. Mom was horrified to see me idly playing with it and absentmindedly taking it off, setting it aside. (Eat The Damn Cake)
[I]t is “sexualization,” or at the very least “sexual objectification.” The issue here isn’t limited to girls learning that their main value lies in their appearance and their ability to perform femininity, it’s also girls learning that their main value lies in their appearance as a means to attract men and their performance of sexuality and sexual availability to males as an essential component of femininity.
She makes a good point. Objectification might be the common thread here, but it seems likely that the way it manifests itself today is different to the way it manifested itself for Bettys Friedan and Draper’s unhappy 1950s housewives, and for Naomi Wolf’s 1980s iron maiden.
It’s also true - to me, at least - that a certain sexual “competency” is one of the ways through which both young women and young men prove their value, socially speaking. I’ve dedicated the last two and a half years of my life to unpacking the ways in which this plays out.
Again though, I’m not convinced that this is only true of this particular cultural moment. Wendy Hollway observed back at the beginning of the 1980s that, for women, “there is power and status in being [sexually] attractive to men” (Hollway 1984). Men might have been expected to be more active in their pursuit of women and sex, but their success in this arena - and their status amongst their peers - was also predicated on their attractiveness to the opposite sex.
And contrary to the notion of the grand sexual revolution of the 1960s, “the successful accomplishment of marital sexual arts was a necessary aspect of womanhood” (Hawkes 1996: 94) for women of the 1940s and 1950s.
Where today’s representations of sex differ, perhaps, is that even compared to 10 or 20 years ago, they’re more cartoonish. I’m totally pro-Gossip Girl, but there’s no denying that it has a very different approach to sex than, say, Dawson’s Creek or The OC. Similarly, speaking to fellow Gen Ys for my thesis, I’m sometimes struck by how cartoonish our expectations are of what our sex lives should be like. According to a recent article in US Elle, around 32% of relationships are virtually sexless. Yet for a number of the people I’ve interviewed - even some of the more sexually conservative ones - having sex less than three times a week would be cause to freak out. Not, in many cases, because they desired it that much, but because a passionate, adventurous sex life has become such a marker of a strong relationship. And, I’d argue, of an interesting, passionate person.
What bugs me about the whole “sexualisation” rhetoric is that it suggests that, if it weren’t for negative cultural forces, women wouldn’t be sexual - and that the fact that they are is bad and unnatual. In the context of pre-tweens and children, my sense is that a lot of these debates are more about consumption, beauty culture, and parents ability to control their children’s access to sex-infused media.
Erika does make an interesting point though: women are taught that “their main value lies in their appearance as a means to attract men and their performance of sexuality and sexual availability to males as an essential component of femininity”. If children and pre-teens are exposed to junior versions of the same messages as their teenage and adult counterparts, might it then be accurate to argue that - in some form at least - they are being sexualised? Even if they don’t necessarily process that information as being sexual?
Ask Rachel: What to wear at magazine work experience
Kirsten writes: I’ve lined up work experience at a couple magazines shortly and got to thinking about how to make the most of my opportunity. Your article really helped me but I was also wondering if you had any ideas, suggestions or feedback on what to wear while on work experience. I’ve read elsewhere that office/reception type dressing is way too corporate for the funloving lifestyle of magazine departments but I do not want to look too casual or laidback. Could you possibly help me decide what sort of clothing items I should be wearing throughout the week? Footwear included!
Don’t wear heels. We’ve all read about the mag with the unofficial “4 inch heels only" policy, but being a workie means spending much of the day on your feet, so unless you’ve got balls - and ankles - of steel, I’d give the fancy shoes a miss.
Other than that, I think a good rule of thumb is to dress in the style of the magazine you’ll be interning at (assuming, based on your email, that you’ll be interning at a fashion magazine). So if you’re doing work experience at Dolly, keep it fun and youthful, if you’re at Cosmo or Shop, go chainstore trendy, if you’re at Harpers or Grazia, go a bit more sophisticated.
You don’t need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, but observing the kinds of styles and women the magazines you’re doing work experience at feature should give you a sense of where to pitch your outfits on the formal to funky continuum.
If in doubt, play it safe - at least until you’ve had a chance to see what everyone else is wearing to work. Don’t go too sloppy, and don’t show too much skin.
I am at that age where the people around me are starting to get married. Not at the rate of one every month or weekend, as religious friends and friends in their 30s have described their social calendars. For now it’s just a slightly speedier trickle of engagements; a ceremony a couple of times year.
I am also at a point in my relationship where the subject of marriage comes up with some frequency. Not in an “OMG, you’d better hurry up and marry me soon!” kind of way. More in a, “Is this something we want to do, and if so how would we do it?” kind of way.
And I have to admit, it’s something I vacillate on.
Not the commitment side of things. I’m good with that, as am I with the idea of building a life and partnership together. I love hosting parties, I like attention, and I love listening to people tell funny stories about each other. If they’re telling funny stories about me and my relationship, all the better. Theoretically, I should be all over this marriage thing.
But I’m not - or at least, I’ve tended to be ambivalent about it. Because as much as every wedding of my generation so far has reliably made me tear up, other elements of the whole thing make me feel uncomfortable, for a host of feminist and anti-consumerist reasons.
The elevation of marriage over other types of relationships (in particular, the relationships of those for whom it is not possible to marry). The treatment of marriage as some sort of bourgeois club. The pomp, the ceremony and fanfare. The sheer amount of money people drop on these things.
Years ago, I knew a girl who boasted that she wanted her future husband (at this point, unidentified) to buy her a $7000 engagement ring. I remember asking her why she would want to demand somebody spend that amount of money on her, when it could be better spent on something they both enjoyed (assuming they had that amount of money to spare in the first place).
Even now, the idea of wearing a large shiny object that other people are going to use as an evaluation tool - as one critically thinking engaged friend told me she’d observed they often were - frankly skeeves me out.
These days, I often feel like a bit of cheapskate. But I think the value that lies at the heart of that is a belief that if you have limited means - which the vast majority of us do - you should direct the money you have to the things that matter most to you: in my case and at this point in time, freedom, experiences and future financial stability. Large shiny displays of conspicuous consumption don’t particularly matter to me, and thus the idea of dropping a large amount of money on them that could be spent on something else strikes me as wrong.
Well, wrong for me. Obviously, many people do love and value big shiny engagement rings and big white weddings, and far be it from me to deny them that pleasure. I do resent however - and resist - the extent to which the process of getting married has become one big consumer fest.
As with many things relating to the politics of the personal, I think the different elements of the marriage question can be divided into three categories.
1. Those things that you personally and genuinely value.
2. Those things that your socialised self values.
3. Those things that you don’t value, but that other people think you should value and try to manipulate you into doing.
Differentiating between the first and second isn’t easy. We’re all social beings, and it can be hard to tell the difference between what you really care about, and what you care about because you’ve been successfully brainwashed. Sometimes you’ll mistake the first for the second, and sometimes the second will hit you in such a deepfelt emotional way that you will mistake it for the first. Detangling the two is a tricky process.
But however difficult may be, I think it is important to resist those things that fall into the third category. That job you really don’t want to take but you think will be safe. Those things you really don’t want to buy, but which people tell you you need.
For the record, I’ve pretty much reconciled my thoughts on the marriage question. The trappings of getting there and what it entails, however, remain up for discussion.
“[I]n public debate about this topic a number of quite distinct issues, with distinct aetiologies, [are] collapsed together. These [include]: child pornography; children being targeted by any form of marketing; young people becoming sexually active; sexual abuse of children; raunch culture; protecting children from any sexualised material in the media; and body image disorders. I suggested that commentators had collapsed these issues together because the image of the helpless child is a powerful one for critics to challenge undesirable aspects of contemporary culture. The result of many different ideological viewpoints all using the same argument…”—
If you read one thing this weekend, make it Zadie Smith’s ‘Generation Why?’ This one’s been picked apart a bit in recent days for its excessively cynical conclusions, but honestly? It made me want to make like Hunter S. Thompson and retype up the whole thing myself just so I could learn to write with such beauty and insight:
Generation Facebook’s obsession with this type of “celebrity lifestyle” is more than familiar. It’s pitiful, it pains us, and we recognize it. But would Zuckerberg recognize it, the real Zuckerberg? Are these really his motivations, his obsessions? No—and the movie knows it. Several times the script tries to square the real Zuckerberg’s apparent indifference to money with the plot arc of The Social Network—and never quite succeeds. (New York Review of Books)
This article on how to dress for winter amused me, because its descriptions of Londoners reminded me so much of Sydney:
New Yorkers, for instance, are good at dressing for winter. Sarah Jessica Parker can make a jean with a flat boot and a padded jacket look hot, by wearing it with fabulous hair and a colourful bag or scarf. Kate Hudson does a good line in a long belted knit layered over some snug cashmere. In London, by contrast, because we are always for some reason slightly surprised by rain and wind, we are prone to getting dressed in a sleeveless shift and some flimsy coat and then, when we finally open the front door 10 minutes after we should have left for work and discover it is cold and wet, pulling on a panic-selection of unco-ordinated waterproofs. (The Guardian)
Rather than squandering our applause on writers — who, let’s face it, will keep on pounding the keyboards whether we support them or not — why not direct more attention, more pep talks, more nonprofit booster groups, more benefit galas and more huzzahs to readers? Why not celebrate them more heartily? They are the bedrock on which any literary culture must be built. After all, there’s not much glory in finally writing that novel if it turns out there’s no one left to read it. (Salon.com)
- 84.3 percent female. - Most likely aged either between 18 and 21, or 26 and 30. - 66.7 percent likely to live in Australia and 15.7 percent likely to live in the United States. - You came upon this blog through another one you read - mostly likely either Gala Darling or another Tumblr blog. - You’re an esoteric bunch, more interested in reading about gender, sex and popular culture, rather than anything that might practically help you in your own lives (although a fair few of you are interested in writing tips, too). - And the main reasons you read are for entertainment, intellectual stimulation and the personal tone, although a couple of you would like me to give more away (and here I thought I was on the verge of oversharing!). - Blogs this one reminds you of include Tiger Beatdown, Feministing, The Ch!cktionary, Gala Darling, Rabbit Write, Mama Mia, Girl With A Satchel and Yes and Yes. (A fairly broad bunch, really.) - Things you’d like to see changed include shorter entries, longer entries, less pink, a better commenting system (I’d like this one too, although it’s a little tricky to manage on Tumblr), more pictures of myself (these never seem to go down very well when I actually post them, though), more personal info, and getting my own domain name (a good idea - what would I use, though? www.musingsofaninappropriatewoman.com seems little long).
Oh - and you’re all very nice people.
Want to add your voice to the mix? And go into the running to win the first two chapters of the book I’m working on for Christmas? (And add some entertainment to my day?) Fill out the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/9HPQ2GJ
Some manifestations of privilege are obvious: how much money you have, how many influential people your parents know. Others are a little more subtle: access to books, computers, travel and art. But one of the forms of privilege I find most fascinating (and insidious) is a person’s sense of the possibilities available to them.
I have a somewhat complex relationship with the concept of “meritocracy”. On the one hand, I am an obvious beneficiary of it. I was plucked out of my local primary school and into selective education at the age of nine, progressively entering increasingly hard-to-get-into institutions thereafter. I also recognise that, as Malcolm Gladwell touches upon in his book Outliers, everything I have done to this point has been made possible by a succession of opportunities, each one begetted by the last. If I hadn’t been given one of those opportunities, it’s entirely possible my life would look very different.
So, on a personal level at least, meritocracy is my friend. I also recognise that it is deeply flawed.
One of my favourite concepts I came across in my undergrad was Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital. The idea that our tastes and habits served as signifiers of our class and social position - and conversely, that tastes and habits that were widely believed to be valuable and worthy were considered as such in part because they were the tastes and habits of the educated and wealthy.
In other words, what many people perceive to be “oh-so-brilliant and accomplished” is often less a marker of hard work or talent, than of being a member of the upper middle class.
I’ve also observed the ways in which the pursuit of these accomplishments can grow fictitious and perverse. Particularly in my early 20s, I observed amongst my peers what sometimes struck me as this kind of gross accumulation of achievement, which wasn’t always grounded in reality. As I began an article for the Sydney Morning Herald at the time:
I know a lot of amazing people. Nineteen-year-olds with their own publishing companies who are ploughing through their first books. Twenty-two-year-olds with half a decade’s experience in consulting under their belts. National award winners, international conference guests, and make-up artists to the stars.
I think it grossed me out because, much of the time, it wasn’t actually about producing anything. This relentless pursuit wasn’t about new ideas, new innovations, or changing the world. It was about jostling for status, an attempt to architect a CV or media profile that positioned the person as the smartest and the best. It was smoke and mirrors, all “look at me, I’m awesome” and not much substance.
To a certain extent, it feels like this particular type of jostling-derived-of-meaning is a temporary quality of youth. At a certain point, after all, you do have to produce something (or at least I hope you do). Nor would it be true to say that all the “brilliant” people I knew - and continue to know - were without soul. Some of them were very soulful indeed. It was the hype that drove me crazy: the self-created awards, the partly fabricated CVs, and the multi-paragraph biographies listing everything the person had ever done. And it was the elitism.
The other, insidious force shaping the meritocratic elite is the sense of what is possible - a sense that I suspect is shaped in large part by the people who surround us. The greatest gift my experience of what we call the meritocracy has given me is not the ability to climb from opportunity to opportunity, but an increasingly enlarged sense of what it is possible to achieve. But this isn’t just a meritocratic privilege, it’s also a class privilege.
When I was growing up, I had what I suspect was a fairly middle class perception of what I might do when I grew up. I could be a teacher, or a carpenter, or a marine biologist. I was smart, so I would probably go to university: the University of New South Wales, I assumed, because that was the one I passed on the bus on the way to school each day. I would marry young - before I was 25 - and if I was lucky buy a two story house in suburban Sydney. Maybe I would take my kids to Disneyland.
As I grew older, my fantasies grew more outlandish, in an Australian Idol/X Factor kind of way: I might become an Oscar winning film director (never mind that my university attempts at documentary filmmaking reveal this is an area in which I have absolutely no skill), a pop star or maybe the editor of Cosmopolitan. But I can honestly say that my current professional activities and career aspirations did not begin to occur to me until I got to university, and began to meet people and read books about people doing those things.
It’s not like this for everyone. I have friends who dreamed of being Rhodes Scholars from the age of 10, a good ten years before I knew what a Rhodes Scholar was. I have friends who applied and got into Ivy League colleges at the age of 17 - something I had assumed was only the purview of people who lived in the United States. Similarly, my children - if I have them - will have a much greater sense of what is possible for them to do than I ever did, if only by virtue of the adults they are exposed to as they grow. Whether this means they’ll actually have the skills, work ethic or economic means to achieve those things is another matter altogether.
The point of this post isn’t to complain: obviously, I have experienced a great deal of privilege myself (good public schools, smart parents who encouraged me to think for myself and were incredibly supportive of even my most outlandish career goals without ever exerting any pressure on me to achieve), and have accumulated more through the years. But I did want to take the time to tease out some of the complexities, privileges and logical flaws inherent in our beliefs about meritocracy.
Being fat in public is, so often, a political act, but just as often it’s an almost inescapable act. As a woman of colour who is often read as white, and a queer woman in a relationship with a man, these aspects of my identity are, in many cases (though not all, because so often it’s heavily dependant upon the ‘audience’), not as front-and-centre visible. My fat, however, is always here, with me. (Hoyden About Town)
I decided to start by asking myself, “What’s funny?” That is a tough one for me because I have no sense of humor. I mean, I assume that I have no sense of humor because all of the funny things that are made especially for women like me, such as Sex and the City, 27 Dresses, and yogurt commercials don’t even make me laugh. But I guess my humor deficiency is one of those womanly crosses I have to bear, along with P.M.S., making seventy cents on the dollar, and paying for my own rape kit. You know what they say though, you can’t make the willing pay for their own rape kits! I think they say that. Probably somebody said that. God knows I didn’t say it myself! I only say things like: “What are numbers?” (The Rumpus)
Whenever people gathered together and there was some elephant in the room composed of bullshit that everyone was dutifully ignoring, West would be compelled to open his mouth and say something, and in a style that implies he was the only one who didn’t realize that it wasn’t socially acceptable to speak truth right at this moment. And despite his truth-saying abilities, he would be shunned. Whatever he said would be blown way out of proportion, as if t was the most hurtful thing ever. He would be forced to retreat to Twitter and wonder aloud why he’s cursed in just this way. (Pandagon)
Renaming everyday things adds a bit of sparkle to the mundane. If you look for the icon for the web browser on my computer, you’ll find it says procrastinate, go on. The folder that hides the games on my iPhone is called playaway. And the contacts in my phone are a crop of strange names. Do I know the world’s tallest man? No, but he claimed he was, so that’s his title. (The School of Life)
The “Why marriage?” question isn’t one question. From what I’ve heard and read from opponents of marriage, it’s at least three questions: Why codify a private romantic relationship with a legal, state-sanctioned contract? Why make explicit, spelled-out promises about the nature and future of said relationship? And why throw a big party to celebrate the first two? (Greta Christina)
Because a woman saying she enjoys sex is obviously always up for it. And a woman who’s had casual sex in the past must not be fussy about who she fucks. And a woman who flirts is just “sending the wrong signals” and completely gives up her right to say “no”. (Ideologically Impure)
Ask Rachel: Do you ever want to pack your bags and go home?
Anonymous asks: How are you going living in London? I remember you moved at a similar time as I have and I’m just having a day where I just want to go back home and have no idea what im doing here…
Until I flew to London four months ago, I didn’t have much sympathy for people who complained about the stresses of moving. This is possibly because the furthest I’d moved before that was about 5 kilometres, with less than one truck full of stuff.
A move on that scale - for me, at least - is easy. Pack your belongings in boxes the week before you move, unpack them the day you arrive, order in pizza with your new housemates - et voila. Done. Moving to another country - again, for me at least - was another thing entirely.
In the weeks before I left, I became hyper stressed and snappier than usual, prone to crying at the smallest of inconveniences. I cried on the flight over, particularly whenever the in-flight movies featured scenes showing parents interacting with their children (oh, the guilt). And the first few weeks after I arrived, I had intense nightmares, which resulted in me bursting out with such sleep talking gems as “I hate you” and “why don’t you just fuck off?”
It’s a good thing the boyfriend has such a thick skin. (NB: Said sleep talking was not actually directed at him, but at the people in my dreams.)
Despite all that - and despite my allegedly persistent whining in the first month I was here that I was going to run out of money, I was never going to get any work, and that my writing career was a total failure - I fell in love with London pretty much the moment I got here. The only moment I can say I probably did want to go home was immediately following this event, which left me seriously shaken. “I want to go back to Australia,” I remember saying that night when we got home. “Where people like me.”
I may have also had a little sob.
In any case, I can honestly say there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be right now. My love affair with New York City is on a temporary haitus as I soak up everything London has to offer: music, wacky theatre, art galleries, literary nights, shitloads of people who dress like me, which makes me feel oddly at home. I even quite like the weather, although we’ll see how I feel about that one come February. (It’s amazing how quickly 12 degrees celcius can go from being “fucking freezing!” to “pleasantly crisp” - and coat-free to boot.)
That said, I would be lying if I said it was easy. As I intimated in my last post, being here means constantly pushing myself outside my comfort zone - which I know sounds pathetic given that I’m living in a country with the same language, parliamentary system and a very similar culture (if a country that overdoes the Friends re-runs).
In the first month I was here, I didn’t sell a single freelance story - although things picked up fairly quickly after that. It took me a month to find a supermarket to shop at which sold fresh fruit, vegetables and meat that wasn’t pre-prepared. It just took me two and a half weeks to buy a new bunch of contact lenses. I’ve come to appreciate exactly how much professional knowledge I’d accumulated in Australia - I may have a vague sense of the publications here, but when it comes to newspapers especially, I have very little idea of who to pitch or how to tailor my stories to them.
And most importantly, while I’ve met some really great people while I’ve been here, I don’t have the same kinds of friendships or community that I had in Sydney. I know awesome individuals, but I don’t really have a network - and if I wasn’t living with the boyfriend, chances are I wouldn’t have anyone to hang out with some weekends. Meeting people isn’t something serendipitous that happens naturally when I’m out with my established group of friends, it’s something I have to do if I ever want to have a group of friends.
So I guess you could describe as ambivalent, but mostly positive. I love London, but there’s definitely a settling in process happening here.
… is pretty much the theme of my story in this month’s Australian Cosmo.
It was inspired by a new(ish) friend of mine, who has a seemingly unsurpassed capacity to attract good things into her life. She’s always meeting interesting people (including actual and subcultural celebrities), being invited to cool parties (and European villas), and basically leading exactly the kind of life that lifestyle magazines always make me feel I could lead if only I had better shoes/clothes/lost 5 kilos/had a famous parent.
So I decided to find out what it would take to have that kind of life, by talking to women who do. And as I’ve hinted at in previouspostson this subject, the good news is that it doesn’t come down to better shoes/clothes/losing 5 kilos/having rich parents (although let’s face it, the last one would certainly help).
What it actually comes down to is possessing a few key personality traits. You’ve got to be extremelyopen to new experiences (meeting new people all the time, fearless when it comes to trying new things), be willing to take risks (throw yourself into unfamiliar situations) and you’ve got to like people (show interest in everyone you meet, don’t assume they’re creeps until proven otherwise, have a generally positive attitude).
Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone can have access to the kinds of insane opportunities and experiences my friend does. But it does strike me that if you use these general principles as a guide, you can inject your life with a whole lot more magic. It’s certainly more effective than buying a pair of shoes that are only going to hurt your feet.
One thing I will say, though, is that it requires energy - and lots of it. Naturally, I tried out my theories on my own life while I was writing the piece. And it worked. I went out clubbing in Camden by myself (one of my friend’s tips), entered a karaoke competition and had conversations with people I probably wouldn’t want to be friends with but who were fine to chat to for one night. I went to a “blog slam” where I wore my Kanye West glasses and sang Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’. I jumped on a train to regional France to spend a weekend at an artists’ salon with a bunch of people I’d never met before (who, it fortuitously turned out, were universally awesome).
I had a great time doing all these things, and they definitely made my life more “fabulous”. But honestly? I couldn’t do it every day. Nor, in that last case, could I afford to.
Being “fabulous” is great some of the time, but other times I just want to hang out at home with my internets and watch The X Factor, or have dinner with somebody I already know, or just do something that is more comfortable and less challenging*. And given that the last time I did the Five Factor Personality Test I scored a 93 (out of 100) on openness and an 86 on extroversion, I imagine that if I feel this way, the vast majority of other people will too.
My sense is that unless you’re one of those exceptional people who can naturally put themselves out there 24/7 (in which case your life is probably pretty amazing anyway), it’s probably best to use these tips as an occasional tool rather than an everyday way of life.
* That said, I have felt generally more anxious and exhausted since I moved to London a few months ago. Probably because almost everything I’m doing at the moment - from work, to making new friends, to even something as simple as purchasing new contact lenses - pushes me out of my comfort zone. It’s no wonder that the comfortable and familiar has become more appealing, since I have comparatively little access to it.
I’ll be using the results to get a better sense of who you are, why you’re reading, and what I can do to help you get more out of it. And as a thank you, I’ll be sending five randomly selected respondents the first two chapters of the book I’m working on, on Gen Y, sex and identity, as Christmas present. (Which will, most likely, arrive not long before Christmas. I’m still editing them at the moment.)
For me, this blog feels a bit like catching up with a bunch of friends at a cafe (if a catch up at which I talk a bit too much), which is why I’m fond of the picture of me pouring myself a glass of diet coke for breakfast (gross, I know), which you’ll find on the right hand side of the page. It’s a place to try out ideas, see what sticks, be prompted to think about them in new ways, and then go away to turn them into something better.