birthday, Home, Humour, Lifestyle

A decade of adulthood.

Ten years ago today I turned 18. I threw my first ever house party but, because I was a nerd, not a rebel, I didn’t plan it on a weekend where my family were away, so my parents, two brothers and my dog were unofficially held hostage in my mum and dad’s bedroom, banned from making a public appearance, except to clear away some leftover chicken drumsticks and to help fix my bed frame, which had mysteriously broken.

It was cocktail themed. Everyone had to come dressed as a cocktail and bring a lot of spirits. The craziest things that happened were we crowd-surfed in my lounge, the aforementioned broken bed was propped up with bricks for the next three years, and apparently two people had sex in my dog’s basket, but the dog never confirmed that. My entrance into adulthood was official.

Today I am 28 and last night I left a work party before 10pm because, ten years on, I’ve discovered I don’t really like parties. At least not when they’re on weekdays and I’ve had to organise them and they don’t include fancy dress.

I’m at this conflicting time in my life, where I still look like a teenager and feel like an imposter in adult places, like conference centres and the M1, but in many ways I have definitely, absolutely aged. Matured, like a cheese, but not an old cheese, not stilton or the ones that come wrapped in paper, like they might fall apart from old age if you don’t hold them together, and not a young cheese, a Babybel, a cheese string, that would be even more ridiculous than this analogy. Somewhere in between. But where exactly is that?

Brie? Double Gloucester? … Laughing Cow?

At 28 years old there is still so much I don’t know; when to use ‘who’ and ‘whom,’ why you have to rinse rice, what the collective noun is for a group of rhinos (just joking, it’s obviously a ‘crash’.) But just because school stopped a decade ago – along with my legwarmers obsession and ability to keep down peach schnapps – doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning.

I’ve learned loads, actually.

I’ve learned it doesn’t become easier to grate things with age. Cheese will always be slippery and run out within five minutes. Both lemons and limes will become more elusive and you will end up grating your own skin into a citrus meringue pie for the work bake off. Carrots will fuck you over every time.

I’ve learned that if you forget to have dinner before you go out on your 21st birthday you will be sick on yourself, your shoes and someone else’s shoes, and the worst possible solution is to pour a pint of water over yourself to disguise it. I’ve also learned that your best friends are the ones who have the photo of you soaked in water and vomit as their desktop background for the next five years.

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I’ve learned I’m not yet responsible enough to own a herb garden, nor am I capable of not spilling hot drinks either down myself or on important documents. And by important documents I mean my favourite postcard of a highland cow that has my exact morning hair, and my ticket stub from Celine Dion; I’m not yet adult enough to hold onto anything that is actually important. I also don’t know whether I should say ‘an herb garden’ or ‘a herb garden.’ One makes the inside of my skin feel funny but I guess if grammar were easy we’d all be spending a lot less time learning about commas in school and a lot more time learning about mortgages, and tax returns, and why you should always eat dinner before going clubbing.

After a decade of driving I still can’t parallel park when people (or squirrels) are watching and filling up the petrol tank makes me more anxious than disease. I iron my clothes about once a year and when I do I use my hair straighteners.

My idea of rebellion has not improved. The most daring act I commit on a regular basis is that even though the back of my hair conditioner says keep in for five minutes I get bored after 30 seconds and wash it out anyway. And sometimes I still eat dry pasta.

Alongside all those particularly life-defining experiences, some other things have happened in my adult life. I got a degree (but I have no bloody clue where the certificate is). I’ve discovered a taste for red wine. I’ve changed what I want to do with my life over 5000 times. I’ve written lots, laughed lots, cried lots. I’ve lost approximately seven pairs of headphones. I’ve developed IBS. I’ve gone from being able to run a bath to being able to run 8 miles and I’m still going. I’ve fallen in love with the same person twice and in my tenth year of adulthood I’m going to marry him. One of the main reasons I’m spending the rest of my life with him is because he’s really good at inventing games and activities at parties – he started the crowd-surfing at my 18th whilst dressed as a pink lady.

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I have zero clue what my next ten years of adulthood are going to be like. I have so many dreams.

I’d like to get paid to write. For real.

I’d like to adopt a staffie and call it Lego. Or adopt two staffies and call them ‘Fizzy’ and ‘Laces.’

I like to think I will be able to pull off mom jeans.

I’d like to have a baby without completely destroying my vagina and call it Lyra whether or not it’s a boy or a girl.

I’d like to become more confident about using spices in cooking.

I’d like a cupboard where all the mugs are different. No matching sets. Lots of personalities.

Mostly though, I want to spend the next 10 years making more mistakes. Being unafraid of failure. Improvising. Laughing. Because the biggest thing I’ve learned is that life’s too short for anything else. Oh, that, and to never ever wear a waist belt out in public again.

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Home, Humour, Lifestyle

If teenage me could see me now. 

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Actually it’s fashionable to write your name in the sand at a beach party. In case you forget it.

About once a week I get mistaken for a teenager – mostly when I’m buying ibuprofen in a supermarket run by morons and once when two men in a van stopped to ask me to get in their van but on closer inspection thought I was fifteen and left me alone (true story – avoid Holloway Road at all costs). It’s a weird one because I know I look young, and my voice is enthusiastically high-pitched, and I get excited about practically everything, but I’m not a teenager anymore. I stepped out of that skin a long time ago and into a new one. Somewhere along the way I shrugged off all the fear, the shame, the discomfort, the maybelline dream matte mousse and started a fresh version of myself. With hair straighteners and sarcasm.

But the perpetual identity crises that happen when you turn twenty-six and haven’t made it yet have got me thinking – which parts of my teenage self are carved into my identity now, ten years later, still running through my veins, tripping me up or propelling me forward? And if my teenage self – in all her insecurity and hope and hysteria – could see me now, what would she say?

When I started secondary school, there was this girl in year eleven who used to terrorise younger students in the toilets by throwing soap at them. I think she was probably responsible for a lot more threat in the school than toiletry-based aggression, but that is the lasting memory I have of her and it has stayed with me. She had her comeuppance on her final day of school when someone else in the year threw an entire jug of water over her at lunch, years of repression and inferiority surfacing in the most iconic aquatic tirade since Titanic. Meanwhile, in the bathrooms, the unspoiled bars of soap breathed a bubble of relief. It was the last time I ever saw her, an image I hold dearly, because it’s the closest I’ll ever get to being in Mean Girls.

In my second year I was so desperate not to make a fool of myself on sports day (despite not even being terrible at sport) that I faked a blackout in the middle of the 400m race so that if there was even the remotest chance of me coming last, I would become a medical hero instead. What actually happened was that during my pretend blackout, an ice cream van arrived on the field and everyone fled to load up on 99s with flakes and those 10p bags of crisps called prawn balls and no one noticed me. God help my mum having to fake-comfort me the whole way home because I couldn’t even bear to admit to myself that it was all a sham.

A bit later, aged fourteen, I got run over on my birthday by a crazy Italian motorcyclist who’d just got out of a coma. I wasn’t seriously injured but I milked it a bit and distinctly remember feeling excited that something big-deal-enough had happened to me that I might feel like I fit in, or get even a sliver of attention from the cooler girls in my form. Instead, one girl laughed and another asked whether I had drawn the tyre marks onto my calves to be edgy.

To be fair that does sound like something I would do. 

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Apple store webcams, where dreams come true.

I was pretty tame. I still am. Finding out what dry humping is was enough to send me into anaphylactic shock. The only embarrassing things I posted on the internet were Casualty and Holby City fan fiction on pretty hard-to-come-by forums, spilling all my fears, hopes and dreams into fifty minute medical dramas. I once spent an entire term dancing with ribbons for PE and couldn’t sleep at night worrying I wasn’t sexy enough in my gym leotard – despite being at an all-girls school with a teacher who had a mullet and a long string-like plait down her back that looked like the rope you use to turn the hot water on in the shower. 

To be completely honest I’ve only partially moved on from that. Except when I’m lying in bed now I remember I’m 26 and the only thing I need to worry about these days is one day buying a house and spending seven hours detangling my tights after they’ve been in the washing machine. All of which leads me to thinking, what in hell would 15-year old me think of my life now? Of who I am, what I’m doing, even what I look like? What makes me laugh, cry, scared, angry? 

Maybe something like…

I can’t believe you’ve actually bought yourself your own crossword puzzle book AND you’re wearing a pac a mac in public on the train. What if another human sees you? Of all the things I thought you’d grow up to appreciate, linen spray is not one of them. Really? A teapot’s on your Christmas wish list? You drink BEER now. You’re such a dad. Don’t you have any Malibu? Why don’t you like any cool bands? As if you take your make-up off in front of a boy. Have you no shame? What do you mean, you don’t hang out at stage doors anymore?You’re so boring. What even is council tax? I’m so sad you’re not famous. WHAT? THEY DON’T DO PRAWN BALLS ANYMORE? I never thought you’d grow up to be someone who thinks a sign of a good night is Nutella on your pyjamas. I can’t believe you talk about tampons in public. And I’m sad you still can’t shave your legs. Really, you’re considering taking up knitting? Why do you insist on wearing patterns that clash? Why don’t you just go to Jane Norman? Maybe you should fake your own death to see what happens.

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Why don’t you pose underneath hand dryers anymore?

Aside from jesting, and the horror that I am 1000 times less cool now than I was in 2005, actually I think teenage me would be happy with how it’s worked out ten years later. That I found the confidence to be me in the end, that my two best friends then are my two best friends now and one of them works for Lindt. She’d probably be relieved that I ended up in a school where I did fit in, loved university and am working in theatre, which is what I always wanted to do after I stopped wanting to be a vet slash acrobat slash paramedic slash Lara from Casualty slash zookeeper slash Desperate Housewives slash famous.

She’d be fucking mind-boggled and then positively delighted that the boy I fell in love with and told everyone I was marrying and stalked from afar is now my boyfriend and we fart in front of each other and I go to bed with Sudocrem on my spots and he doesn’t care. She’d be sad that I’ve given up singing but happy that I took a ten-year break from writing scripts and am back to it although disappointed there’s not even one scene set in an emergency room. She’d be proud I can talk to strangers and not be ashamed of my hair colour and wee up a mountain and more. 

Being a teenager was super crap but teenager girls have it harder these days – the only confidence crush I got online was someone not thinking my ambulance crash story was realistic enough. Teenagers these days probably think I’m really weird when I listen to their conversations on the bus and smile over my shoulder at them like a knowing grandma. But it’s because all that faking blackouts, trying to be cool, telling stories, caking on the make up, wanting to be loved, that all stops in the end and I want them to know that. That the girls who throw soap will always lose out.The ones who get it thrown at them will learn to brush it off, come out cleaner, stronger, smarter, funnier and smell better on the other side. You will grow out of Malibu and grow into your body and you’ll grow up to be you and only you.

And I bloody can’t wait to learn how to knit. 

Current Affairs, Health, Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Politics

Sneeze if you want to go faster: on hay fever and Brexit.

I’m doing something daring right now. I’m writing about a first-world problem in the wake of the result of the EU referendum.

Actually I’m doing two daring things. I’m also drinking peppermint tea when it’s just that little bit too hot.

First things first, this ain’t because my priorities are skewed (I hate burning my tongue). Nor is it because I don’t care or don’t understand that our country would be better off it were being ruled by Voldemort right now. I feel as nauseous and full of angst and fear and anger and disappointment as everyone else I know.

If anything it’s the opposite. After Friday’s result we have a fight ahead of us. We. The young who want a brighter future. We who can’t watch the world we know implode in front of our eyes and do nothing.

I have faith in us of course. The Spice Girls splitting up was just the warm-up. We got this. We must be strong. United. Positive. Level-headed. Persistent. Vocal. Committed. It’s time to talk. Write. Petition. March. We must not give up. 

Which is great and everything but I can’t stop sneezing. 

You see – alongside the fact that our country is fractured, croissants are going up in price, David Attenborough is sad, the racists won and everyone in the world thinks Brits are a joke, there is another pretty enormous dilemma in my life right now that is not only bringing me down but significantly limiting my ability to delve into peaceful protest as an effective human being. 

And by bringing me down I obviously mean hurtling me into a dark existence of emotional eating choc ices. But you knew that.

I’m talking ‘bout you, hay fever. Seriously. You’re one eye infection away from being more damaging than Brexit.

It’s testament to how deeply panicked I felt at the thought of Britain leaving the EU that I was even able to leave the house and vote because, to be honest, in the last three months, besides dragging myself to work and occasionally venturing out to see if chocolate oranges are on sale, I’m barely exaggerating when I say I’ve spent about 90% of my free time in May and June sat down on the floor rocking from side to side trying not to claw my nose off my face and die. Trying to recall a time when I didn’t wake up feeling like I needed to bathe in vic vapour rub for eternity or just simply live under water. 

When did British summer time stop being about Pimms and strawberry splits and freckles and sunburnt scalps because all hats are made for heads that are smaller than mine and instead turn out to be this seasonal nightmare where noses literally die from the inside just because flowers exist? Forget sun blindness – now it’s pollen-infested corneas and breathing through what feels like a plant stem for a throat. 

To think I had it tough when I was nine and the kids at school laughed at me because I got sun cream in my eyebrows and up until that point no one thought I had any eyebrows and they called me grandma for six months. Now I no longer have an affinity with bees and we’re out of the EU – is this really adulthood?

Hay fever is so far under my skin it’s affecting both my professional and personal life way too much. I’m genuinely concerned people at work think of me as ‘the nose-blower’ or ‘even her elbows are allergic.’ I can’t taste food anymore because my sense of smell and taste buds buggered off to somewhere pollen free a long time ago – probably the Antarctic, or the kebab shop. You know what, those senses have probably got EU citizenship by now. 

My relationship is suffering. As much as one might think smothering my pillow in albas oil every night is arousing, while a boyfriend who chooses an allergy-free partner might get lucky mid-week, mine has albas-induced tears rolling down his cheeks and spends most evenings trying to locate his libido amongst all the nasal spray and phlegm. 

You can imagine all this can get pretty depressing. To put it into context it’s pretty difficult to vocalise your total despair at this country’s political system when you can’t get through a sentence without sneezing or clearing your throat. My voice is lower than the pound right now. My sinuses as effective as Jeremy Corbyn.

As a distraction from my decrepit body I came up with a list of things I enjoy more than hay fever, because positivity. Stand out items are quinoa, humidity hair, and reaching the end of my overdraft. So you get a sense of scale – the fur trade only just beats it. 

While everyone else has been successfully breathing this week I also came up with a list of things I could have treated myself to if I wasn’t currently spending my life savings on prescription anti-histamines. Up to and including flights to Madrid (that was before Friday’s result – it’ll be too close to call now), things on Asos that haven’t come from me filtering ‘lowest prices first’ and like five pet lobsters. 

I have tried everything. Bowls of echinacea. Eye drops. Pills. Creams. Strange herbal balms. Prayer. Meditation. Applying for a lung transplant. At one point I considered moving to Europe but I guess that’s out the window.

What I’ve discovered amongst all this is if you well and truly get hay fever (if you think you have it you don’t so that’s nice for you high-5) there is sweet fuck all you can do. In political terms it’s as hopeless and as soul-destroying as the prospect of Jeremy Hunt running for Prime Minister. 

A week ago after a particularly traumatising experience mistaking perfume for Beconase I resigned myself to the last remaining option: hang fairy lights in my room, start buying presents, make a Christmas playlist and lie on my bed waiting for winter to arrive. 

But now I can’t. BECAUSE OF YOU, BREXIT. 

Now I have to act instead. There are way too many truths to post on social media and parades to join and flights to book before we can’t afford them. We can’t just sit back and wait until the sweet cocoon of winter enfolds us in its pollen-free wings. We can’t recline and self-medicate Piriton whilst watching David Cameron trot off in October leaving us to that mop-haired buffoon who – I’ll be honest – scares me more than Azkaban. 

So where does that leave me?

Well. I’d give up anti-histamines to be a part of the EU. That’s what it comes down to. And that realisation is enough to make me breathe a little easier and see a little clearer.

Armed with my comrades in arms – Airwaves gum, Kleenex and that 48% – I’m ready to fight back. Who’s with me? 

PS. Does anyone know if Nigel Farage gets hay fever? Just digging out any last sense of justice in the world. Thanks and love. X

Beauty, fitness, Graduates, Health, Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health, realism, Storytelling

The abnormal cell block tango.

Recently I reached a point of very low, winter morale. You’ll know the one. The kind of suffocating, plunging mood, when you spent all your money on advent calendars in the sale and you’re one rainstorm away from a fatal Vitamin D deficiency. 

For those who make rational decisions in life this seasonal depression may coincide with a decision to book yourself in for some valuable me-time, perhaps a spa retreat or a bath of cookie dough. Ever one to take the alternative and mildly self-destructive route, I saw the most positive course of action as attending my first ever smear test. 

Girl’s got to treat herself from time to time, right? 

I wrote all about it HERE because it turns out vaginal swabbing is the most fun thing to live-blog ever.

This visit proved that spreading your legs for the NHS can lift your seasonal depression pretty effectively actually, because afterwards a) everything that isn’t a speculum is positively glorious and b) you can’t help but feel pretty damn sassy after you’ve climbed up and over what is definitely the most miserable thing every woman endures when they turn 25.

However. The joy that came with conquering both my seasonal affective disorder and my fear of foreign objects down below – not to mention a long-lasting disappointment at not getting to use the stirrups – meant I got sidetracked and lost sight of the actual big deal surrounding smear tests. 

Turns out whether it has succeeded in making you flexible will not be the biggest issue you face – that would be the result that gets posted through your letterbox afterwards. And later in the month, on the way back from a little staycation in the Brecon Beacons with Eduardo, where there had been enough Welsh cakes and snowy mountains to distract me from my own vagina, I remembered the postal service exists. 

Obviously the four hour journey home that followed this realisation meant I had a pretty decent amount of time to build this letter entirely out of proportion. I’d say my hysteria by the time we reached my doormat was comparable to the level of dread Ron gets in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Mrs Weasley sends Ron a Howler. Multiplied by 1000 though because at least she isn’t telling Ron his cervix is abnormal. 

When I picked up my ominously padded envelope I had, to put it mildly, a sense of the deepest foreboding. Surely a ‘babe don’t worry you’re FINE’ letter would more likely be a post-it stuck on my door than news wedged between five leaflets screaming ‘Everything you need to know about colposcopies’ and ‘What does YOUR abnormal result mean?’ 

So there it was. My cells were abnormal. Which took me completely by surprise because, of all the things I reckon could be wrong with me most of the time, I actually thought my womb was on my side. In a split second my emotions frazzled completely and I cried on Ed for about ninety minutes, staggered between episodes of Homeland because even smear fear can’t distract this girl from Damien Lewis.

In the moment I felt a deep sense of injustice that as number one Google symptom checker this couldn’t have happened to a less rational person. Plus for Christ’s sake I’m trying to read all the Harry Potters in one month – this girl don’t have time to spread her legs AGAIN.

In retrospect though what I think made me freak out the most was having zero friends with comparable experiences to reassure me that everything would be okay. Being the youngest means I’ve never been the first to do anything. I desperately wanted someone to tell me the colposcopy wouldn’t put me off sex for life and that you get free ASOS vouchers or a puppy for being brave.

But perhaps this was some sadistic higher power giving me first go for once. I couldn’t go be the first to go clubbing, or drive, or buy a lottery ticket, but I could get the insides of my vagina spray-painted before anyone else (literally – that happens). 

And with all these things you can’t stop the next steps materialising. You just have to get on with it. Which is why I’m putting my story out into the ether – because there is NO COMFORT to be found on Google. Google will instil all the fear, make you feel betrayed by your own womb and get you planning your own funeral. So after justifying a pretty impressive amount of self-pity chocolate and googling every possible outcome of a second screening I started to feel a bit better about it all and pushed the worry to the back of my mind. 

For anyone who loves the inns and outs of these things as much as I do, my results showed I had mild to borderline dyskariosis, which is the lowest grade of cell changes that exists and thankfully the least worrying.

So it was about time I stopped my chocolate binge.

Abnormalities are pretty common and shouldn’t be so scary. It’s not cancer – it’s just not normal. Anyone whose results show these changes needs a colposcopy – a more in-depth examination of your cervix which either tells you that the cells are back to normal and you can get back to reading Order of the Phoenix or that you need some form of treatment to make sure any rebel cells don’t develop into something more high-risk. 

I’ve learned the most important thing to remember with these screenings is that they aren’t testing for cancer. It’s seriously unlikely you’re going to have cancer. They’re actually looking out for signs that cancer might develop later in life and as a class-A hypochondriac I am SO up for eliminating anything remotely risky. 

So in that moment the colposcopy became my friend. And aside from some minor irrationality on the day, manifesting itself in a belief that the better you look the less likely they are to tell you you’re doomed – “How much should I shave? Where is my best dress? Do my feet look decent?” – I was ready.

I wish I could say you get ASOS vouchers. You don’t. But other than that it’s really not so bad. ‘Colposcopy’ might appear scary, because it sounds like somewhere between ‘octopus’ and ‘autopsy,’ which are both top of the list of the things anyone would least like near their vagina, but please be reassured that the fear is far worse than the actuality.

During a colposcopy a speculum goes inside you again (they just can’t get enough) but this time they do the testing in the moment so it lasts a little longer. After spraying the entrance your cervix with dye, a strange medical form of graffiti that makes you feel like you might wee a rainbow afterwards, they use a colposcope – a large magnifying glass outside your body! – to highlight any abnormal cells on a screen. The dye stings a little bit – no worse than mistaking any citrus shower gel for your fem fresh – and other than being moderately uncomfortable for ten to fifteen minutes it’s one hundred percent within the realms of manageable things we must deal with in life. 

Even better for me, this time you definitely get to use the stirrups, and I have to mention that the nurse mistook me for an actual BALLET DANCER because I moved so gracefully into position. SAY WHAT! Twenty-five years I’ve tried to be graceful. Ten years I made every dance teacher want to throw themselves off a bridge because I was mutilating their art form. All this time I just needed to be paralysed with fear that my cervix was wonky. Too little too late, much?

Having a doctor paint the gateway to your womb is not the one. However bringing your boyfriend along with you is one of the most precious things in life. You’ve gotta take your kicks when you can get them. It’s not every day he’ll get to see your cervix on the big screen and these boys damn well need to witness what it means to be a woman. 

Just as it seemed to go on a little too long and the numbing effects of the ballet dancer comment were wearing off – enough for me to contemplate asking for some mild cocaine anaesthetic I was told everything was fine. The cells that had previously shown as abnormal were not. My vagina was a-okay.

The best result I could have wished for this time round made me feel pretty lucky. Anyone who’s shown an abnormality has to go back within a year to rule out any further changes but at least that gives me time to finish Deathly Hallows. In the future I might need to cope with more, but the lovely team of NHS doctors and nurses I had with me on the day have made me feel ready for that.

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Did you know?

  • 1 in 20 women will receive an abnormal result from a smear test. 
  • 1 in 3 women in the UK don’t attend their cervical screenings. 
  • 3,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year. 

So girls – PLEASE book now if you haven’t already. It might sound scary but it’s no more traumatising than using a tampon for the first time and wandering around school thinking your womb might fall out. It is without a doubt the most important thing you will do in the year of your 25th birthday because it might just save your life. 

Peeeeeeace sistas. X 

Beauty, Health, Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Mental Health

Shaving my way to sexy.

I feel like I haven’t written a blog post in aaaages. I wish this was for a really exciting reason, like I’ve been trekking across America with Taylor Swift, or Antonio Banderas and I had a huge break up and he ran off with my laptop. In reality it’s because I’m trying to read all the Harry Potters in one month as a challenge to myself and I have zero time to write. 

So I needed a worthwhile reason to put down Prisoner of Azkaban just as Hazza’s bang in the middle of saving Buckbeak’s life and it turns out that reason is a burning desire to talk about the phenomenon that is being sexy in the shower, because I just pulled a load of hair out my plug hole and thought, this is not the one.

I don’t really do sexy. Sexy doesn’t really do me. Sometimes when I’m drunk I feel a bit loved up in a wanting to kiss all my friends way, but I think that’s because I have the sexiest friends in the world, not because I feel sexy. 

It might be something to do with me feeling just a little bit tall and awkward… As a teenager, while all my friends were having sexual awakenings kissing boys in Von Dutch caps on beaches, I was permanently damaging my spine from sinking so low into my hips, desperately trying to make eye-contact with someone who wasn’t a seagull. 

What I lack in sexuality though I think I make up for in hair and wit so it’s swings and roundabouts. Anyone can fake sexy with enough lipstick and lace but not everyone can think of instant puns on request or use their plaits as weapons. I feel my sexiest in pyjama shorts and my boyfriend’s old sweatshirts and have grown quite fond of my identity as “sweet” and “oh my god you look so young.”

Now, perhaps I watched too many Herbal Essences adverts growing up, but somewhere along the line I’ve definitely been told that my showers should be loaded with sex appeal. In a similar way to how we should all be turned on by a good yoghurt or a particularly effective air freshener. And this idea of being sexy in the shower fills me with immense curiosity and marginal disgruntlement.

I find showers stressful. I never seem to give myself enough time, I usually injure myself in some way or another and ever since I got told showering was the perfect time to check my breasts for lumps they’ve lost all appeal. Whether it’s a fear of the shower falling on my head, soap in my eyes, scalding myself and having to lie down for several hours after, or realising half way through that I’m definitely allergic to all things Original Source, showers for me as far away from sexy as I am from waking up tomorrow five foot two.

I feel the need to say that I’m mature enough to overcome my discomfort and I do wash. I like being clean, I prefer it to being dirty. But I have no desire to spend longer than the necessary time in the shower and as soon as I’m in I secretly wish it was over…

AM I A CRIMINAL? 

However, after years of jumping in and jumping back out of showers faster than you can say “bath mat” one day in the first few months of living in my new house something changed…

We have a really narrow shower in my house. So narrow that if you want to brush conditioner through your hair you need double-jointed elbows and eyes at the back of your head. 

The other day I finally decided to come out of hibernation and shave my legs. This is something I usually try to avoid because without contact lenses I have pretty hazardous vision and end up mutilating myself. At this moment in time though if you looked closely through my tights you could see more than one sparkling, golden hair peering enthusiastically through the gaps in the cotton, like a very disappointing version of trying to grow cress in primary school.

So I picked up a razor.

Because I’m dreadful at all shower logistics (in a similar way I’ve never been able to do a double pirouette) I then dropped my razor on the floor mid swipe and bending down to pick it up again in my narrowest of showers, I had to manoeuvre into what turned out to be my first ever fully-bodied, perfectly executed SLUT DROP

(The man on the train who has been reading this over my shoulder just exhaled loudly.)

Is it acceptable to say slut drop these days? In an ambiguous way I find it quite empowering and now that I’ve mastered its execution I’ll be a bit disappointed if the general consensus is that it’s reductive and outdated – could “razor lunge” be the new slut drop?

On the way back up (“slut incline”? “bathing ascent”?) I pulled a muscle in my groin that meant I struggled to put underwear on for a week, but I couldn’t fight the joyful feeling that I’d finally turned my shower stress on its head. Unfortunately no one was in the bathroom to witness my fitness and my housemate just had to take my word for it as I raced out in a towel turban (read crown of glory) and proclaimed the good news on the landing. 

Puberty = defeated. Herbal Essences = slam-dunked. 

My joy was short-lived on realising just how badly I’d sliced my leg shaving when I bled through my leggings and wondered if my period had come early. But still. Next stop: leather trousers.  

Deep down I think my disconnection with showers goes a little deeper than a quest to be sexy, which, in spite of this entire post, really isn’t top of my agenda, promise. I’m still a lot more upset about not being sent my acceptance letter to Hogwarts than I am about my milkshake not bringing boys to the yard. No, realistically I think my lack of enthusiasm is probably because I’m not very good at having time to myself to think, hate standing still and don’t feel that comfortable in my own skin. 

Uh-oh. This bathing story got deep. 

Since this sexiest episode of all time though something must have changed inside me. This morning I spontaneously exfoliated just because I felt like it. Not because I was scared I’d fall over in the street, get taken in an ambulance and the paramedic checking me over would feel my slightly bumpy backs of arms. Who is this new me? 

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do a slut drop again. It was an epiphany, a one-off occasion where my body defeated all odds in the name of hair removal. I might try body oils next time in the hope I do the splits. I also feel one hundred times sexier knowing that my body’s on my side in times of real need. 

When the day comes that beauty adverts show girls crying shampoo tears whilst pulling hair out of the plug hole and clamping cotton wool down on razor grazes I’ll be one hundred percent satisfied…and one hundred percent aroused. 

Until then, I shall be keeping it real solo. 

Graduates, Health, Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health, Storytelling

A Smear Test Story (Because I’m Worth It)

Since all I do is write about being 25 and IMO the most significant thing that happens to you when you turn 25, if you have a vagina, is getting your cervix scraped, it makes sense to me to document my first experience just because. For anyone lucky enough to have never seen a speculum, remember at school when you put two Pringles in your mouth to make a duck’s beak. It’s basically the lengthier, less tasty and less hilarious medical equivalent of that. 

I know, I know, I too have been wondering why something as sexy as a speculum isn’t used more regularly in porn. 

You guys probably all know that I think I’ve got cancer at the best of times, so there’s never an ideal time to get swabbed for malignant cells. Low on the list though, is a Friday morning at the end of a long week, when you need a wee. 

I began writing this in the waiting room of my doctors surgery. State of mind: trying to make myself as aroused as possible so it hurts less (only half joking). But I’m surrounded by old people, a blood pressure machine and a woman breastfeeding. There’s not a lot of scope at the NHS. It’s got to be said, I know you’re short of funding but a Brad Pitt cardboard cut out wouldn’t go amiss. 

So I’m having all the bad thoughts obviously. Is it like giving birth and will I need stitches after? What if I’m not actually flexible enough to fit in the stirrups? (Actually though – if it makes me more flexible please get me in there now.) Where does the voice that calls out the names actually come from? Just think of The Secret, Emma. Healthy cells, healthy cells, healthy cells. Normal cervix, normal cervix, normal cervix. 

Forty minutes later (clearly my nurse likes to play hard to get) I’m inside. (She’s not…yet). We’re talking. Like a first date (at least what they tell me) where you know there will ultimately be penetration but you go in for a bit of small talk anyway. I’m on the bed. We’ve got onto the subject of arts funding. What can I say? I take my work to bed with me. 

This is 100% worse than losing my virginity. As I spread my legs it occurs to me again that there’s still no Brad Pitt cut-out and this is the least enthusiastic I have ever been. What if my zest for life never returns? What if it’s sealed up in the pot of my hopefully benign cells and gone forever?

This nurse is so nice but seriously, stop asking me about work while you’re inside me. Hasn’t anyone told you it’s wrong to mix work and vaginal probing? Oh wait…your work is vaginal probing. On a positive note it turns out the best possible way to perfect mindfulness is a smear test. It’s apparently the one time I am completely in the moment.

It’s not peaceful. It’s not relaxing. I might be a bit sick. 

Now it’s over. I do feel fine really, maybe like 19% violated, but no more panicked and astray than normal. I may have told the nurse I loved her for treating me nicely giving her in all honesty not that inaccurate an insight into what I was like when I was single. (Ed, my hostage boyfriend, worries this bit makes me look a bit fragile. Thoughts on a postcard?) 

As I walk to the bus stop some builders yell at me from some scaffolding. Clearly I’m giving off some sexy post-swab vibes. Turns out getting swabbed gives you the courage to yell back at men in fluorescent jackets who catcall. My only regret is not telling them I’ve just had my cervix scraped, just to put them off for life, but I am still secretly pleased they called me ‘that blonde’ and not ‘that ginger.’  

I’m a bit devastated that they didn’t use the stirrups. Now I’ll never be a gymnast. I was also kinda hoping for a free Lucozade and Club bar after, like when you give blood. Next time I’ll try to bleed more. 

All in all, now I’ve had a cup of tea and feel like my pelvis definitely isn’t permanently damaged, I’m pretty content with how it went. On a scale of 1-10 on the ‘Is it worth it to know you’re cancer free?’ scale it’s definitely an 11. Realistically, as a growing woman, it’s not the worst thing that our vaginas are going to go through in life and the desire to live a long and happy life and to experience everything the world might throw at my cervix is the reason I’m gonna get my smear test every year. Cancer can piss off.  

Ironically when I arrived at Victoria station en route to work, cervix intact, the entire building was being evacuated. The words ‘exploded’ were being thrown around lightly and all I could think amidst the chaos was if my ‘lucky reason’ for not being on the tube at the time of a terrorist attack is because I was having a smear test that is bloody terrible because I’ll be indebted to a speculum for the rest of my life. 

A smear test and bomb scare in the same day guys = not the one.  

Turning 25 is scary. Living in London is scary. Cancer is scary. Smear tests are scary. But you just do it, you know? Croissants were of course invented as a post-scrape reward and coming through on the other side of all that fear and vagina-displaying you feel pretty good about yourself. I’m grateful to be swabbed because it’s vital. I’m grateful the security threat was just an unexploded WW2 bomb and no one died. Plus I got quoted in The Metro, hi bucket list. I’m happy I can spend the rest of my weekend with my head down and my legs shut having checked off one major item on the to-do list for age 25. Because I’m worth it.  

Girls, if you haven’t spread your legs yet, go get swabbed and tell me about it after. X 

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Summer, Travel

Australia: Happy You Happened

A little Sunday night post just because a year ago today at this exact time I was in Heathrow airport boarding a plane to Melbourne, Australia and it’s making me smile thinking about it. Holy frickin’ cow. A year ago today. 

Is it lame these days to say ‘frickin”? 

When I started that opening sentence I was on an especially swervy train home and felt so sick I had to shut my laptop and stop writing. So it’s now a bit later on Sunday evening. I’m at home, with a Bounty hot chocolate, and a charcoal facemask on. So I look, if I say so myself, like a pretty dashing piece of cement. I’m also watching The Last Five Years film for the first time. I’m not sure who I fancy more out of Anna Kendrick, Jeremy Jordan, and the piano soundtrack. 

Either way I’m a decent amount of aroused at all the jazz harmonies. This is in stark contrast to this later time a year ago where I would have been two hours into the air having all the palpitations and sat next to a girl who liked the taste of blood.

I know that because she told me. 

Pretty dreadful going that she wasn’t the worst company I had on the 24 hour flight. During my second leg I was arm to arm with  a man who had ticked on his visa form as ‘visited in the last 21 days’ every single country currently hosting the Ebola virus. 

I was so beside myself with terror for the entire duration of the flight I believe I was on the point of having an embolism. Whether it was crashing over Malaysia or contracting Ebola, one way or another I thought I was going to die. 

The fact that I managed to travel there and back and am still alive to tell the tale is my favourite excuse for a little hi-5 to me right here, right now, blog-style.

Australia happened and I’m so happy it did. 

Before I talk some more about Australia, I don’t know why, but I feel the need to justify that I liked The Last 5 Years before it was a film, okay? I’m not just super late to the party. Moving Too Fast was my Myspace theme song. Thanks. 

I could talk a lot about all the sun cream and skin cancer and how good I looked with a rucksack and how Australians say ‘skull it’ instead of ‘down it.’ Which I love by the way. But I’ve promised myself I won’t word-vomit in this post and I’m seriously getting super into Jeremy Jordan and might need to go lie down. 

So all I’m gonna say is this – 

If you get the urge to escape, run away, and find yourself for a little while somewhere else, don’t question it too much, just do it. 

It feels good. 

It works. 

I was thinking today, as I hacked up half a lung on the train, how I didn’t feel ill in Australia the same way I do over here, right now, three hours away from February, with half a voice, snot on my sleeve, likely close to a paracetamol overdose. The sun works for you. (So does the cheap sushi.) It’s good for you. Probably because what comes with Australian lifestyle is a deep desire to look and feel good because everyone who walks around you is so bloody attractive. But either way – your soul is replenished. 

Either that or you quite literally sweat out your woes.

My quality of life quite often gets lost, trapped at the bottom of the escalator in London, so I’m sat here, on the sofa, thinking about what it would be like to be friends with Anna Kendrick remembering the promises I made to myself to bring that healthy ethos home and not forget it. 

What else? Taking yourself on an adventure. Pushing yourself. You grow and your life is a little fuller because of it. Every time I find myself doubting what I’m capable of I remember I was once strapped in on a China Southern aeroplane and I didn’t die. I also survived their attempt at eggs for breakfast. And went on the most vertical train ride in existence, up the side of a mountain, backwards. 

I got this.

Animals. For the highlights of my trip came down to wildlife. Meeting baby kangaroos, witnessing tiny penguins making the beach crossings to safety, the giant panda breeding centre. I still get totes emosh thinking about it and feel lucky that I’ve seen those things, they’re in my heart. This is perspective for me. Finding comfort  in a world that is so out of my reach and understanding sometimes. That exists outside of me, really, and so beautifully. That takes my breath away.

Doing things alone. Seeing things and hearing things by yourself. Only for you. 

The little things that make your memories more tangible. Like overhearing the man in a cafe writing a play about a koala with chlamydia. That was just for me. I won’t forget it. 

Like by the end of it not giving a shit about shaving my legs.

Plaiting and re-plaiting my hair over and over again because humidity.

By the way I found out the other day that one should take care when hugging koalas because they do in fact have chlamydia. 

Running out of money and spending every day in museums looking at Moulin Rouge exhibitions.

When the seal broke my phone.

These tiny pieces make up the parts of a trip that changed me for the better. It sure as hell had its bad moments. But I feel deeply grateful that I left everything behind and went and did something for me. Where I found my way again. 

Because I know I belong here, in London. And that makes me truly happy. But it took stepping away to realise that. A bit like when you give up biscuits for Lent and realise come Easter that your life is absolutely, undoubtedly incomplete without Party Rings. Just like that actually. 

Anyway. What I hope is that with this Sunday night waffle if I can inspire anyone who might feel lost, to bite the bullet, book some flights and reevaluate everything you’re setting out to do in life, it won’t stall your dreams. It might just change your life for the better and set you straight. 

Special shout out to my favourite Aussie friends who made my trip out there so perfect. I love you so very much and I will be back one day.