Where I am Now

It has happened – I have finally got to the point where I can say that I have finished university and my time in education (unless I’ve failed my final exam and messed up all my coursework so will have to do retakes in August, but hopefully that won’t be the case). Finishing university has always been a huge milestone for me, and tied up with the fact that I have never not been in education, it’s a big one. When you’re in school, you dream of the day that you won’t have to be in school any longer. No more exams, no more essays, no more petty childish drama – and pretty much all three happen still in university. I say ‘you’, which realistically is a big assumption to make on behalf of everyone reading this, but what I’m trying to grasp at is that feeling of anticipating the next stage of your life. I, for one, had big expectations of what I would be like once I’d finished in education. I had hopes, dreams, and plenty of those pesky assumptions which I’m now having to reflect on.

The first big thing is independence, which in essence I have achieved in terms of living away from home during university months, doing my own washing, cooking etc etc. Yet when I was younger independence did not look like going down to tesco just before it shuts because you needed to put a wash on and have run out of tablets. It did not look like eating the same meal for three nights in a row because you want to save money. It did not like forgetting simple things every now and then because you’re tired, such as hot ceramic dishes do not mix with cold water. I know, I know, it’s all about living and learning and growing and bettering yourself, but that mantra does no good at 1am drying your bed sheets with a hairdryer because you forgot about the wash you put on.

One big thing I always thought about was what job I would have – and the dream job has changed many, many times. Becoming an author (and by that I mean a good author who has people who like their books so much that they can making a living out of it) has always been a dream job, but there are always others that pop in and out of my mind. First I wanted to be a professional horse rider, then a pop star, and then deciding I wasn’t a good enough singer so a songwriter. Recently, the dream is to be in publishing, and I certainly expected to have a job lined up and ready once university was finished. Yet, here I am, and all those hopeful publishing applications I sent out have been returned with a ‘thanks, but no’. You’re always told that you go to school, then to university, then you’ll get a job – but nobody really talks that much about the in-between. When applying for universities, no one told me about how, even if I do well and get a great degree, a job won’t be there waiting for me. They didn’t tell me that even if you work your arse off not only at your degree but at applying for jobs, it won’t necessarily mean you’ll get one either.

With the job dreams also come the social life dreams, and I always assumed that by the time university was over I would be in a committed, happy relationship with someone who could celebrate with me over all those job offers I had coming in. Again, Little Miss Assumption over here, but when I was younger that was what I thought was the most important. It was like a list of items to take the Life Goals Supermarket, and you would tick each one as you went along. Job? Tick. Relationship? Tick. What else was needed?

I knew I was going to forget a big one, and that is the dream I’ve had for a long long time, probably starting at about 10 years old – and perhaps the saddest one when I look back at it. What I wanted all through secondary school was beauty. And isn’t that just awful? Sure, sure, we can just argue and brush it off by saying that society makes us try to value what we’re born with (looks, parent’s wealth, lack of both) over what we earn for ourselves (perseverance, patience, kindness). And sure, we can all stand around and say that no society, we will not be partaking in that thank you very much. But at the end of the day, when I would go home at 12 years old and look in the mirror, all I would see was acne, a big nose, un-styled hair, and chubby patches all over. I’ve spoken a lot about acne and appearances in the past and how I now feel more confident, but I’m still filled with the memories of standing in front of a mirror and wishing that there were no mirrors in the world so I wouldn’t have to look at myself. Wishing that there was some way to exchange your face for a new one. Wishing that there was a way that meant I could live my life without anyone looking at me. And I wished for that day in the future, the day when I finished school for good, when puberty should have been and gone and left me unblemished, with clear smooth skin, great hair, and a body I was happy with. That was what was going to be my biggest marker of how far I had come.

But, as is the way of life, things didn’t exactly go to plan. Here I am, university finished, but just after the days of stress with my emotions all over the place and a few days of very hot weather, I’ve had another skin breakout. I have red spots dotted around my face like some flicked paint at me with a toothbrush. I’ve got black heads on my chin and nose, and something resembling Mount Etna on my neck. You stare in that pesky mirror and it’s pretty hard to think that you haven’t come that far at all.

Then I have to slap myself for being so melodramatic. Because I am not that twelve year old girl thinking that people won’t like me just because I have a spot on my chin. Like, jesus christ Eleanor, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it kinda hurts when you poke it, but it’s just a spot. There’s the magic of makeup if you’re feeling super downhearted but other than that, your face and your looks do not define you. Twelve-year-old me hardly knew how to write paragraphs, and here I am having just written a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic I love on top of my various other coursework and exam revision. On top of that I have worked every single weekend for almost two years now so that I can keep living in London and support myself. On top of that I have been going to different opportunities to make contacts and get work experience. And on top of that I’ve surrounded myself with friends who I love (and who assure me they love me back when I’m not being so ridiculously melodramatic).

And so, like most of these blog posts go, this has turned from reflection to being a self-affirmation that whilst all my hopes and dreams haven’t exactly come to pass, I’ve realised that they’re allowed to change a bit. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll be a bestselling author telling the story of how she almost let a pimple keep her from chasing her dream, and everyone will say, “Man, she was a melodramatic child”.

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Female Beauty

I have a notebook obsession – seriously, it’s a bit of an issue that I try to handle every single day. I even tried to get rid of a few old ones the other day, and as I was flicking through  the pages of one of my numerous ‘ideas’ notebooks, I came across a small passage that I wrote. It was a first-person rant by a female character who was fed up of being called arrogant for thinking she was beautiful. When writing it, I think I must have been maybe fourteen and most definitely insecure about my appearance, so of course I wrote about characters who were confident, strong, and took absolutely no shit from anyone.

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Anyway, it got me to thinking – a rare activity for me – about why I, along with so many other girls, are so insecure. Yes, the easy answer is media and body-shaming and blah blah blah, but I think it’s more than just telling girls that they need to be skinny or it’s beautiful to have flawless skin and long flowing locks like some sort of Disney princess. I think you could go far enough to say that we’re not telling girls just about what beauty is, but that they can’t be beautiful. Or at least, they themselves can’t think that.

I’m not making much sense? Right, let me take you to a classic example of a pop song by a boy band beloved by most young girls. Heard of that horridly catchy and irritating What Makes you Beautiful by One Direction? Now, not to hurt too many feelings, I’m sure the boys of 1D did not intend to fit into the stereotype of putting down girls nationwide, but they certainly do with that number. Yes it might sound cheerful and seem sweet about a boy telling a girl she’s beautiful, but let me remind you of the killer line ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful, that’s what makes you beautiful’.

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I know, I know, they seem very cute, but STOP THAT RIGHT NOW. Are you seriously kidding me with this line? Let me elaborate what they’re saying here several times:

  • You don’t know you’re beautiful, that’s what makes you beautiful
  • What makes you beautiful, is that you don’t know it
  • I like the fact you think you’re ugly, it makes you more attractive
  • You have no self-confidence, which I like
  • I like to be superior and for you to feel inferior

Ok, maybe the last one is going a bit too far, but I’m standing by my point. We are telling girls that it’s better for them to have no self-confidence. It’s not good to think that you’re pretty or beautiful because that’s too close to arrogance which isn’t at all attractive. Far better for a boy/man to find a girl who thinks she’s worthless so he can be the one to reassure her, or not. We go back to the ageless stereotype of thinking girls should be meek and quiet who need to be saved by strong men. Stop that right this instant.

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And so we’re back to the classic slut vs stud dichotomy; women who sleep with lots of men are sluts, men who sleep with lots of women are studs – simple! You would think we’d be past this by now but, alas, we are not. And boy bands are partly to blame. Sort of.

Why are girls encouraged, still, that having confidence isn’t great? In an age when we’re trying to get girls thinking that they can be just as good as boys, and telling both boys and girls that they don’t have to fit the stereotype of being strong all the time/quiet and meek all the time, there are still a million and one issues. Beauty is one that we usually think we’ve covered, like there’s some long list and after the numerous attacks on body-shamers and huge long articles about plus-size models and what not, we’ve ticked that box. Hate to be the party-pooper, but we’re a long way from done. Girls are told to be confident in themselves and their abilities, but that doesn’t yet truly extend to being confident about their beauty.

So, let’s please change something. Even if it’s just a song that now says ‘You don’t know you’re beautiful-oh wait, you do know? That’s great news; I find your confidence attractive and I like that we’re on equal footing’, although that’s a little less catchy.

Misogyny – it’s still around

Time for a more serious post and, to kick it off, I’ll start with a definition.

Misogyny: dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

Ok, so a lot of people these days are celebrating the fact that women are equal to men and that all prejudices against women have been completely eradicated. Hate to burst your naive little bubble there, but misogyny is still a part of everyday society. A lot of people will dispute this idea, but there is so much evidence to support it.

Let me begin with my own experience and I’m going to use some that I’ve encountered over the past three days. Not years, not months, but within the past few days I’ve witnessed misogyny. I work at a football stadium and already warning bells should be ringing as football is always coined with masculinity. Again, people will argue that women are equal in this field of the world as well as we have televised female football, but still this is not publicised by mainstream channels. Turn on Sky Sports, for example, and all you’ll find it men playing football – not women. In fact many men find the idea of women playing football ridiculous and this has been tackled by the media in films such as Bend it Like Beckham or She’s The Man. In the latter particularly, the only way the female protagonist can play football is by disguising herself as a man. Unfortunately, the view that football is a masculine sport has not changed at all.

So, back to my work. The next strike against me is my uniform which is tailored to heighten my ‘femininity’ to set me far apart from any masculine connotations. Just to say now, I do love my job as I meet some amazing people and I enjoy what I do, so I’m incredibly grateful for it, but of course my uniform is a dress that either shows too much cleavage or has a tendency to ride up my thighs. Top that off with the required red lipstick, bow and high heels, you have an objectified woman. This presentation of women practically encourages misogynistic views and ideas that women are objects to be possessed.

Over the past few days of work, I’ve had men take one look at me and say things such as ‘Give me your name, darlin’ or ‘Come on, give me your phone number’. Not too bad, you might say, disregarding the fact that I’m still only seventeen. This then advances to catcalls and wolf whistles, being called a ‘good girl’ by some condescending idiot who thinks that I’m completely incompetent because I’m the pretty girl in a dress who is there to ‘serve’ him. Next, you get the men who take it up a notch and start shouting abuse. My friend and I had finished our shift and we were heading back to our changing rooms to get out of the dresses when we had men shout out abuse at us, calling us ‘prostitutes’ among other foul language which I’m not going to repeat.

A lot of people will tell me that we were ‘asking for it’ being dressed like that and that we ‘deserve’ being abused due to the way we were dressed. Others will say that what we experienced is hardly something to be complaining about as nobody actually physically abused us. To counter this, a phrase comes to mind that I found the other day: why is it that girls are being taught how not to get raped instead of everyone being taught not to rape. Rape is the extreme form of abuse, but it is the physical form of the verbal abuse I have experienced not just at work, but in everyday life – and I’m only seventeen. I’ve been taught in school not to wear certain clothes and different tactics for staying safe so as not to be abused by men. It’s taken as a certainty that male abuse will happen, and don’t even get me started on why we’re not taught that abuse in this form can happen to boys as well. It’s seen as a fact and tackled by addressing the victims instead of preventing future abusers.

On that note, let’s take a look at the media as I’m sure you’ve all heard about Elliot Rodger who, I hate to tell you, is not the only man who has taken action against women because they’ve denied him what he sees as a male ‘right’. Women are seen to be possessed and are shown to young children that they are objects, even if unintentionally. Women are seen to be things to marry, to have sex with, to cook dinner – just take a look at all the stereotypes where women should stay in the kitchen and clean the house whilst the man goes out to work. That idea has not just disappeared over the years, no matter how much we wish that it has. I want to say that the vast majority of men do not treat women like this at all and abuse has declined, but when you’re in ‘typical male territory’ such as a football arena and BAM, abuse is a common, mundane affair.

Someone who talks about this far more eloquently than me is Laci Green and you can find her here. She addresses the example of Elliot Rodger in far more detail than me and discusses the misogyny still ingrained in our culture. What terrifies me is the vast amounts of people who are pitying this man, encouraging others to take a ‘stand’ like he did and that he is a victim. A man who killed innocent people, including three of his housemates, is apparently a victim.

What I want to know is why – WHY is this still a problem for today’s society? Why are we called an ‘advanced race’ when we can’t even address and prevent something like abuse among our own species? Why do people like Elliot Rodger get celebrated by some where we should all be disgusted and try to support the families who lost their child, cousin, neice or nephew who are the real victims? A man with a gun who kills due to the fact that he hasn’t ‘had’ a woman is as much of a victim as a man shouting abuse at two seventeen year old girls because they’re wearing dresses ‘just because he can’.

Skin Deep

In my moments of procrastination, I tend to watch TV that requires the least amount of concentration and, yesterday. I turned on the ‘Idiot Box’ (name courtesy of my Dad, despite the fact that he watches Wheeler Dealers so often it’s not true) yesterday and started watching some good ol’ Catfish.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the show, I do not mean this:

Instead, I mean this:

Now, ‘catfishing’ is known as pretending to be someone you’re not online in order to hook someone into an online relationship. This programme shows the truths and lies of online dating, started by the host Nev who had his own experience after his online girlfriend turned out to be not who she said she is. People involved in online relationships (who haven’t met their partner in real life) email Nev to to help them meet their love. Sometimes, the person they meet is exactly who they claimed to be, just with a few insecurities or something along those lines, but more than usual it’s someone completely different.

You may wonder at this point where I’m going with this.

This isn’t a TV review (although, if you want my opinion, Catfish:the TV show is entertaining to watch – which is all I’m looking for in between bursts of revision. In actual fact, I had a realisation in the programme which probably isn’t that life altering, but it made me feel like I’d just had an epiphany.

As I was watching, it was a typical episode where the guy goes to meet his girlfriend who claims she is a size 6 blonde bombshell, but is instead several sizes larger. I kept on thinking, ‘Why would someone take part in an online relationship and why would you pretend to be someone you’re not? Surely you know it’s never going to end well?’. Then as I kept watching, it started to sink in – ok, it’s pretty obvious anyway, but still – that the people faking their identity always happen to be a lot larger than they pretended to be.

Before any of you start sending me abuse about how you should judge someone’s personality and not their appearance, this isn’t exactly where I’m going with today’s rant. I’m the first person to jump into the argument that personality should always be favoured instead of appearance, as would most people, but what does this programme in particular tell us about our society? It shows us that, despite everyone’s claims that they favour personality, in actual fact people still favour appearances. Why else would we have so many people pretending to be someone they’re not? To hide their appearance, perhaps?

Nowadays, I’m a lot more confident in my appearance than I used to be thanks to a great family, some awesome friends, and those few wonderful individuals who drop a compliment to a stranger like it’s nothing, when in fact it means the world. Hell, even when a stranger smiles at me on the Tube (which, if you’re a frequenter of London, you’ll know that smiles hardly ever happen) it helps to brighten my day.

I had serious confidence issues and consequently I was always self-conscious of the way I looked thanks to an early hit of puberty. My lovely hormones caused a huge bout of acne which essentially crushed my confidence in days. It sounds melodramatic and tons of people will say, ‘Everyone gets spots, just deal with it’ and I don’t see myself as vain, but acne did ruin a part of life starting at the age of ten. In primary school, whilst everyone else around me had lovely skin I was there with spots and blackheads. Starting secondary school, it felt even worse because I didn’t know anyone and – in year 7 – not many others had acne like me.

I’m incredibly lucky that all I’ve had to deal with is acne because it could have been so much worse – there are people out there who have to deal with something much worse than that, but it still affected me. I tried every acne cream/soup/wash that I could find and so many different types of pills that would supposedly help that I’ve lost count, but they never worked.

^^This is me in year 7 (excuse the silly expression) and it’s the only picture that I can find on my facebook that I haven’t deleted which shows some acne. Before you ask – yes, I did spend hours going through all my photos to make sure there were none of me that showed any really bad acne because I couldn’t bear the thought that people would look at me and see the acne. There are many times where all I wanted was a different face and I couldn’t understand why I had to have the acne when other girls in my school had perfect skin. Seriously, some girls literally get nothing; their ‘puberty’ just involves getting bigger boobs. HOW IS THAT FAIR??

Anyway, so I had many teenage breakdowns over acne – as I’m sure many teenagers do – but luckily the acne has died down now after eight years of turmoil. I still have some, but it’s less noticeable and it doesn’t have such an awful affect on my confidence. In fact, I even tried to get into modelling at one point and, for all you out there who have confidence issues, the best way to get rid of them is through yourself in the deep end. Don’t go on whacky diets or operations, just go stand in front of a camera and smile. It sure helped me.

So, what the hell is this post all about? Is this just a chance to get my sob story out there? …Not exactly. Actually, I think I wanted to make a point about our society or something deep like that. It just hit me that the only reason we have programmes like Catfish out there is because there is still such a huge problem in our society about appearances. Be that if you have a lot of acne, a bit of extra weight which people put too much focus on or even if you have a misconception on the way you look. If you even look at people filming celebrities, the commentators will talk about their clothes, or how they look a big bigger then normal and therefore she must be pregnant, because surely she wouldn’t do something as awful as putting on weight! Heaven forbid! Celebrities just can’t be like us regular mortals where a bit of extra weight is practically mandatory.

It’s silly to say that we live in a society where everyone thinks that personality is the most important thing, because it clearly isn’t true. I wish it could be different, but I suppose time will tell.

Let me know what you think ~ Eleanor