Friday, 27 February 2015

Everyone Has Their Own Problems (or, Be Your Own Lobster)


A few weeks ago, my beautiful friend Katie wrote a post in which she highlighted all the reasons that comparing yourself to others is toxic. All her posts are incredibly insightful, but this one in particular stuck with me and I've found myself thinking about it ever since.

One of the modules I've taken this semester is 'The Art of Emotion' and it seeks to explore the way we think, read and write about feeling. In my research into happiness, I learnt how more often than not it is a comparative emotion. Not only in the sense of 'I didn't have this but now I do and that makes me happy' or 'I used to have this but now I don't and that makes me sad' but also 'I have more than them, that makes me happy'.

When we evaluate our own happiness, then, we are not just comparing our present situation to a past situation (or vise-versa) but we are also directly comparing our social standing to our peers (and it is most often our peers and rarely someone with a considerably higher or lesser social/economic position).

This saddens me, but it also highlights just how toxic comparisons can be.

The thing is, everyone has their own problems to deal with, whether they choose to share them or not. If there's one thing university has taught me is that more people than you realise have a disorder or mental illness. I can't count how many people I know who have a combination of depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, the list goes on. Even with those people who you're super close with, I'd estimate that 80% of the time you don't know exactly what their going through.  What we project out may not necessarily be the truth (although there is a whole school of thought that we are only our projections, but that's a discussion for another post entirely). Facebook exacerbates this problem. Who posts pictures of them looking down, or sad, or just plain bored? No-one! We post pictures of ourselves having a great time, smiling, looking like we're having fun (even if we weren't really having fun at the time the photo was taken).

Comparing yourself to others is a pointless exercise. It creates stress and a really bad atmosphere. All you can do is focus on you, and let other people focus on them. Thanks to Friends, we all know the story that lobsters mate for life. I say: be your own lobster.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

#reviewsdaytuesday: TopShop Concealer Pallette

I've already done a mini-review of this product in my EssieButton inspired everyday make-up post, but I thought I'd go more into depth now that I've been using it for a while.

I got this concealer pallette around Christmas (I can't remember if it was just before or just after, but I was using it by New Years Eve). As you can see, I hit pad pretty quickly, which I think is disappointing for a £12 product. 

I really like the three tones this pallette provides. The yellow tone is pretty good for neutralising dark under eye circles, the light peach tone is great for brightening the under eye area and the darker pink is good at covering red-toned blemishes or pigmentation (particularly around the nose). I have light/olive toned skin (I'm normally a light/medium in the winter, medium in the summer), so the colours provided worked really well for me. It has a creamy formula which means it applies really easily with the fingers (I normally blend it out with a brush afterwards).

My biggest issue with the pallette is its staying power. Because the formula is so creamy (which is great for application) it just slides off the face - no matter how much primer I put on or if I set my make-up with a fixing spray. It creases really easily so it can sometimes look cakey and make me appear more tired-eyed than before!

I don't really see the point of the translucent powder they provide. I don't have a powder brush small enough to get the product from the pallette onto my face, and since I use a pressed powder to set everything anyway it didn't serve any purpose for me.

I probably won't be re-purchasing this pallette - although I'm not adverse to trying TopShop's Concealer (I might grab it in the summer when my skin is a couple of shades darker though, as their lightest shade in't light enough for my under eye area, although it would work as a spot cover-up).

TopShop Beauty is a cruelty free brand. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

University #14: Students Are All Lazy

I hear the sentence 'students are all lazy' with alarming regularity considering I go to university and the majority of the people I interact with are also students. I take a lot of issue with that statement, largely because it comes from a place of ignorance about what students actually do.

I am on an Arts and Humanities course. We are often deemed the laziest of the lazy due to our minimal contact hours (contact hours being the time we spend face to face with a tutor on the university site). I have 5 contact hours per week, and I'm the first to admit that for £9,000 it feels like a little bit of a rip off. However, what a lot of people fail to consider is all the work that we have to do on our own around those 5 hours.

On my course we are told we should be expected to work for 50 hours a week.

I'll let that sink in for a moment. 

For people in full time employment, the working time directive states that no person has to work more than 48 hours per week (although they can chose to work more). Already, students are expected to work two more hours each week than most adults in a full time job.

University is expensive. I've already mentioned that our tuition fees are £9,000 per year, but that doesn't take into consideration the cost of living. For bills and rent alone I spend over £300 per month. Food shops vary, but often that will be another £100 per month (not including alcohol). The government provides between £3,500 and £7,000 to cover living costs (a combination of maintenance loans and grants). 

Personally, the loan I get doesn't cover the cost of my rent, bills and home insurance. Having a part time job is essential if I want to be able to support myself.

You're expected to work 16 hours per week for most part time jobs. Already that has pushed the potential working week up to 66 hours.

To say that all arts and humanities students will be given a work load that requires them to work 50 hours per week each week would be stretching the truth a tad. However, from personal experience I can comfortably state that some weeks I have worked well over 50 hours in module prep alone, so my actual university working week is around 60 hours. My friends were recently told by a seminar leader that the amount of work he set them to do would have taken around 30 hours. That was for one of the two modules we have and is in addition to the in-class work. If their other module had also given this work load, if they had also had a part time job, their working week had the potential to be 80 hours.

Students do not have it easy when it comes to work load.

For most people, university isn't just about furthering their education, it's also about the social life. As ridiculous as it might sound, it is time consuming to maintain a group of friends, and social life could easily be counted as work time. I don't even want to think about how much that would increase the average student working week.

This isn't to mention the fact that for most students this is their first time away from home, their first time having a run a home. Housework is time consuming. Cooking is time consuming (especially when you're still working things out).

We're also meant to be thinking about our future, applying for graduate jobs and looking for internships (mostly unpaid) to fill our 'holidays' with. In my holiday I have a 5,000 word essay to research and write. I'm meant to do a full time internship alongside that?

We're also meant to live a healthy life- often the first thing that goes out of the window, often the reason why students will turn up groggy to seminars with a bag of chips and a can of Monster, often the reason why students are branded as lazy because they don't look as if they could be productive.

The long and the short of all this is: Give. Students. A. Break. We're not always perfect, sometimes we spend way too long scrolling through the depths of the internet and not doing work, maybe we didn't have to go out three times in the past week, but we do work hard.

Students aren't lazy, but we are exhausted. 

Monday, 16 February 2015

#reviewsdaytuesday: It by Alexa Chung

I first bought this book for one of my best friends, but whilst it was on my shelf I leafed through a number of the pages and decided to pick myself up a copy. 

Scrappy - that's the best way to describe this book. Meant to be read in several sittings, it reads like a diary/journal/agony aunt piece. Containing memories from Alexa's childhood as well as fashion advice it's like a sneak peek into her mind. I particularly enjoyed the photographs, many of which were never explained and added to the scrap book feel.

I love Alexa's fashion - she is effortlessly cool and both feminine and androgynous - but if you're not a big fan then I'd perhaps avoid this book as it doesn't really do it say much else. As a piece of art it's pretty cool. Below is my favourite picture from the book - and my current phone background.

I enjoyed reading this book. It doesn't feel like something that should be shelved, but rather left out ready to be poured over at any given moment as I'm sure I'll find something new each time - and that is a pretty special quality for a book to have!

It by Alexa Chung is published by Penguin (2014)

Friday, 13 February 2015

Some Love Poems

Since tomorrow is Valentines day, I thought I'd share with you some of the love poetry I've written over the past couple of years. They're not all technically very good (not fishing for compliments here - literally they are technically (metrically, rhythmically etc) not very good), and most are not page poetry (ie. they should be spoken not read). Nevertheless, I'm proud of them in my own way. Also, sorry about all the sex references - apparently my love poetry tends that way (I think to stop it getting too sappy).

I'd also like to take this moment to remind everyone that just because I wrote these poems and they are about personal things does NOT mean they are about me, or any of my former romantic partners. All writing is invention and construction: these are stories in their own right and should be treated as fiction.

** (This poem was originally published by Concrete (I'll add the link when it appears online). The prompt for this piece was 'love on one condition'.)

Sex in a Single 

Some say simply sex is the performance of perfect unity but I disagree. 
You know you're committed to the act when sex becomes mathematics. 
You have my respect when you can show off your A-Star GSCE: 
move shape A to shape B using factor two rotational symmetry. 
Employ Pythagoras as we switch; work out the angle between my hips 
and yours. Get me from my knees to my back via SOH CAH TOA. 
Mirror along the (se)x axis: to-you-to-me, or one-two-three, 
ease my linguistic brain with geometry
to achieve interdisciplinary synchronicity.  
We can make love on one condition: 
you can do the maths.


The Jumper

He gave me his jumper.
He said it was a trade:
him for it to keep me warm
whilst he was away.
Although the jumper's comfy
there's still something it lacks:
no matter how I hold it
it still can't hug me back.

** (This poem was originally published by 140Story)

him. Bent his spine
until he cracked. Dog-eared
the pages of him she liked best;
then left.


No Sex

Our red wine lips press against each other
remembering the days his best friend yelled
through the window of a French mobile home.

We listened to him then but now we laugh
and I can taste myself in our kisses.


Week 31

I left my baggy T-shirt,
a pair of clean pants
and Mum’s old painting jumper -
the one my uncle bought her
from his trip to Aus in ’89
(’89, the year mum and dad tied the knot,
bought a two up two down) –

You said:
‘You don’t need the pants
In this house,’
I laughed.

Your toothbrush sits in the pot;
Your towel hangs over the door;
My bed sheets smell of sugar beet sweat.

I toss and turn
Caught between the wall
And you.

Your hand reaches out
Pulls me

It is easy how we intertwine.

You twitch in your slumber.

Chewing gum on the bedside table.
I taste your morning breath.

We’re cartographers,
Our fingertips map familiar landscapes.
Sandpaper stubble;
The jut of a hip;
The bulge of muscle.

You were right about the pants.


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

#reviewsdaytuesday: Yes Please by Amy Poehler #buttonsbookshelf

One of my favourite ladies on the internet, EssieButton, started up a book club this year, and the first book was Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I'd been wanting to read this ever since it came out, so this was the perfect excuse to pick it up.

I went into this book really excited for it, but not knowing much about Amy apart from her acting in Parks and Rec and Mean Girls. It was really interesting to find out more about Amy's life, particularly the early years of her career and her pregnancy. She is very honest and open about her life, but she doesn't reveal all - she is very good at pulling back from the serious with humour.

Amy is a wonderful writer - as many people will know from her time on SNL - but she's also an incredible person. She handles herself in this book with grace and poise. I particularly enjoyed the parts where her friends and family took over and wrote little bits about her, as it really demonstrated how full of a person she is.

I loved the layout of the book. It isn't chronological and almost has the feel of a scrap book - pictures stuck in, things out of order, written down in spare moments between putting her children to bed and working on Parks and Rec. The huge quotes which almost work as chapter/segment headings are wonderful and very motivational - if they haven't already I want them to be made into postcards!

This was only a short review, but I hope I've conveyed how much I enjoyed this book. Amy is very honest about how hard writing it was, which was really refreshing. I really recommend it - particularly for young women, and particularly for those interested in a career in the arts.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Sounds Like My First Time (Ann Summers Party)

This time last week my living room was filled with girls, lingerie and a lot of lube. No, my house wasn't hosting a huge orgy, we were having an Ann Summers party.

For those of you who don't know, Ann Summers is a lingerie/sex shop. It stocks everything from bras and pants, hosiery and teddy's (the sexy body suit, not the cuddly toy), to role play outfits, vibrators and whips.

I was a bit skeptical at first - worried because not all of the crowd we had gathered knew each other and plunging in with the sex talk might be a bit awkward, worried that no-one would buy anything and the poor woman who runs the event would have had a wasted evening (they work off commission), worried that we wouldn't all fit in to our tiny living room - but it was such a fun evening.

Admittedly it was a little awkward at first, but as our wonderful rep Kay talked us through the products she had brought along the jokes started flowing and the atmosphere eased. When she brought out lube for us to try that (allegedly) 'makes it feel like there's a man down there', the evening really kicked off and we were laughing the rest of the night.

Hetronormativity aside, it was a great night - passing round the vibrators and prodding each other's noses with Ann Summer's trade-mark rabbit ears was a particular highlight. It was so nice to have a room full of women confidently talking about their sex life, no-one trying to 'one-up' anyone else. It was so warm and accepting, and a really nice space to be in.

And at the end of the night, loads of us had brought something (or won something in the 'Bitch Raffle'), and one of our friends has even booked Kay for another night! If you're looking for a fun night in with the girls (no boys allowed, sorry!) then I'd really recommend it. It's completely free (the hostess actually gets a slice of commission if they sell over £150 worth of products) and there is no pressure to buy anything.

I've linked to Kay's facebook page if you're in the Norfolk area and are interesting in booking your own night with her.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Outfit of the Night: Harry Potter Party: Fawkes

Sorry this post is going up later than you're all used to, but, as I explained on my twitter, tonight my university is hosting a Harry Potter themed club night and I couldn't resist showing you my outfit. Up until the very last minute I was going to go as The Resurrection Stone, but when I was getting my black top out of the wardrobe I spotted this beauty and couldn't resist changing it up to Fawkes!

All my make-up is cruelty free. I feathered my brows using liquid eyeliner to make them more bird like.

I used my shimmey E.L.F eyeshadow over my face to give myself a golden glow.

I did a quite heavy contour on my cheeks and down the sides of my nose to give myself a pointed, angular look.

The earrings you can see were a gift from my friends, and they are cork topped bottles that say 'A Letter From Hogwarts' on them, with a tiny replica letter inside them.

The top is a vintage find from my local vintage fair. The skirt is from TopShop. 

These shoes from NewLook complete my look.