RIP Sally Brampton: Who could see joy in the ordinary

On my bathroom wall there’s a page torn from the back of my favourite magazine, Psychologies. It’s a column by Sally Brampton, who killed herself last month, after a long and much-documented struggle with terrible, colour-sapping, joy-slaughtering depression.

As I never knew her personally, Brampton’s death came as a shock. I discovered it, as I do most things, by faffing around on Twitter, and it took only a cursory Google to confirm it was true.

That Brampton apparently walked into the sea seems a heartbreaking yet curiously apt method for a woman who had often written of her love of the seaside, the happiness of meeting friends on the beach, and finding meaning in the tranquil ‘boredom’ of her life since moving from London.

Although she was much heralded as a brilliant editor, razor-sharp yet kind commissioner, and the architect of a new style of women’s magazine, I only discovered Brampton through her writing on depression and life in Psychologies.

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“Bodyshaming on bodyshaming”? Why bashing the Protein World poster isn’t the same as bashing the model in it

This week I wrote a blogpost criticising a poster that’s been cropping up around
London – a now-infamous Protein World advert selling protein powder to help women
get their body ‘ready’ for the beach.

Credit: @Seja75 on Twitter

The poster has been widely mocked for its perceived sexism and suggestion that only
one kind of body – a thin, traditionally-beautiful one – is ‘ready’ for the beach. There has been a petition against it, the Advertising Standards Agency is investigating it, and there is a planned demonstration against it in London’s Hyde Park this Saturday.

However, my main problem with it wasn’t the sexism (although wow, how lazy do you need to be to use a woman in a bikini to sell something?), or the predictability of asking women if their body is ready for the beach in spring. It’s staggeringly unoriginal, but you know,
whatever – that’s not my point.

My point was that it showed only one kind of body – the kind that is ALWAYS shown as
ideal – as the absolute pinnacle of beach-body-ness. However, neither was I especially thrilled with the ad’s use of photography or the expression on the model’s face. Legs apart, her back to the wall, scantily-dressed, an ambiguous and not-particularly-happy look on her face, the model didn’t seem that empowered or happy with her protein powder. Which kind of misses the point, no?

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“Are YOU beach body ready?” Oh, do f*ck off

Apparently, if you don’t like this ad, you don’t like being healthy. Well, bollocks, frankly

This blogpost was originally published on The Huffington Post here

I was particularly affronted to be greeted with this monstrosity of an advert on my daily commute this morning. Funny, I thought I was just minding my own business in my usual spot on the Jubilee line platform. But NOPE, actually I should be PERMANENTLY stressing over whether my body is “beach ready”. Duh.

Credit: @Seja75 on Twitter

Luckily, I’m not the only one to be affronted. A Change.org petition against the ads has nearly 30,000 signatures already. Sign it here! Also follow the link to see lots of people’s reasons for signing, including sexism, promotion of eating disorders, constant bombardment of these sorts of images…

But actually, my problem with it isn’t the usual “OMG sexism, skinny women’s bodies on show, bikinis, argh” outrage.

From my point of view, it’s about promoting one kind of body over all others, and suggesting that one magic protein powder will do that.The response of the company, Protein World, is particularly infuriating.

In the inimitable words of the TimeOut London Now Here This website: “Protein World do not appear to give a shit about any of the criticism. They argue that the the adverts are okay because the model has a healthy BMI. They also say: ‘It is a shame that in 2015 there are still a minority who aren’t focusing on celebrating those who aspire to be healthier, fitter and stronger.’“.

That’s suggesting that if you don’t like this ad, you don’t like being healthy. Well, bollocks, frankly.

Because don’t get me wrong. I love being healthy. I even like working out, because of how it makes me feel. I care about my fitness and health, spend time planning my meals and trying to make good choices when I eat and workout, and aspire to a strong, healthy body that looks good.

BUT this ad is promoting ONE type of body – on a rather miserable-looking model, at that – above all others, and making weight loss about looks, and being “beach ready” rather than strength, health and mental positivity, and suggesting that some protein powder rubbish will do that for you. All kinds of wrong.

Body positivity isn’t about shaming or being thin – it’s about feeling good in your skin. It means different things to different people – for me, it’s about being strong and functioning well, as well as being at the best weight for my figure. For others, it’s something else – recovery from an eating disorder, the freedom to eat what they like without worrying, or not conforming to others’ views of how they should look.

Credit: @DoveUK and @MTWTHRL on Twitter

So GTFO of my commute, Protein World, and PLEASE, stop talking to me about beaches when I’m on the way to work, yeah? Ta.

This blogpost was originally published on The Huffington Post here

Dreams and possibility…?

The older I get, the more I realise that most people are generally too busy in their own worlds to bother too much about what you’re up to.

You might think that you’re standing out like a sore thumb, or that everyone’s looking at you or judging you – especially somewhere super-crowded like London or New York – but actually, it seems that most people are mainly absorbed in their own thoughts and worries to pay too much attention to you and yours. Sometimes this feels damn lonely, but other times it can be liberating, or, as I like to call it, I-dont-give-a-shit-esque.

AND YET, if anyone ever wondered, even for a split second, what I’d honestly want others to say about me, the following image wouldn’t be a bad place to start. I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a dreamer – both positive and negative connotations implied – but if that means you also see possibility everywhere, and ask, well why the hell not me? Well then, I’m pretty happy with that.

Originally posted on one of my guilty-pleasure websites, The Culturist.com.

dreamer-image

January 2015: Not so much “Resolutions” as “Things to Remember”…

At least, that’s what I said to myself after I doodled this lot (below) on a page in my new year’s notebook one night last week.

Rather than actual Things To Do (because god knows we’ve all got enough of those already), they’re more words to live by – how I try to live my life, always, whoever and whatever I’m dealing with.

resolutions-2015Sometimes I achieve it, and have a day where even the most-delayed, rammed, horrifically-slow District line Underground train can’t dent my zen-like, at-peace-with-the-world state.

Other times, even a five-minute delay can cause me to nearly cry with frustration at EVERYTHING being WRONG, and as the pure, distilled symbol of everything I don’t like about my life. (When does a Tube metaphor ever NOT perfectly describe the difficulties of existence, I ask you? Never. Nearly.)

These Things To Try And Remember segue neatly into actual “Things To Do”, because they help me balance my mood, remember what I’m living for, and crucially, make me feel good about myself.

So, blah blah blah, if you really want to know – in terms of ACTUAL resolutions, I’ve started a bloody difficult new exercise plan (TurboFire), am doing daily yoga workouts before work, trying to break the Christmas habits and eat better, keeping up my food diary again, starting up driving lessons again, trying to learn the repertoire of my new choir, keeping an open mind on relationships, and generally trying to take 2015 as it comes. With joy. And resolution. In that sense, these kind of ARE resolutions.

But crucially, I’m not beating myself up if I “break” one, or have a shit day. And equally I’m trying not to feel too “this is too good to be true” if I have a good day.

After all – as you can read here and here – one of my most favourite sayings is “If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up”. Which, in less wanky language, is “Whatever it is, don’t let one fuck up, fuck up everything, and DON’T GIVE UP, EVER”. Maybe I should add that gem to the above list? Haha.

Here’s to 2015, everyone x

Welcome to the inspirational bullshit club!

This week, the relatively-new young women’s website The Debrief published an article called “The Facebook Statuses That Are Giving You Emotional Contagion – Hit Unfollow Now”, by Stevie Martin (@5tevieM).

It struck a chord. Because I am the sixth status they highlighted. I am the “mate who posts OTT inspirational bullshit”. Yes.

And even though they (very nicely) put this bit under the “People you should never unfollow” section, I still sensed a hint of irritation (the words “OTT” and “bullshit” were a dead giveaway). Allow me to explain.

TheDebrief-bullshitLess than two months ago, my boyfriend broke up with me (that’s not it, bear with me).

Even writing that seems foolhardy; like some fatal admission of weakness. Surely, as a young, free, single woman I shouldn’t even acknowledge it – “he broke up with me”. I should write, “We broke up”, or “It just ran its course”, or “Meh, whatever, more fish in the sea, no biggie”.

Sometimes it feels like when your relationship breaks down, you’re expected to cry for a bit and then just go, “Too bad, his loss, move on”. I should be channelling Beyoncé, says the received feminist wisdom, thinking that if some guy I believed in and loved proves himself not to be worth my belief or love, then what else is there to do but pack up and move the fuck on? “Next”, as more than one of my friends has said, not unreasonably.

And yes, to some extent, that is how it feels, and there is a world of truth in it. Some days, I’m like, “Erm, [ex-boyfriend’s name] who?”

But actually, some days it’s more difficult. Because when all is said and done, the split was one-sided. So there we go.

Even after the initial shock of that person no longer being there (and worse, actively choosing to no longer be there), there’s still a lot of pieces to pick up, thoughts to banish or nurture, memories to temporarily block out, parts of your personality to box up that are no longer as needed or as relevant when you’re single, such as being more patient and understanding, or less selfish, or really good at that thing you did in bed (What? It’s true).

And sometimes, motivational slogans are the ONLY thing that gets me through. Same for song lyrics, or snippets of books. They’re the only thing running through my head reminding me to GET SOME PERSPECTIVE, or cheer the fuck up, or remember that life is good and love is out there and that I’m not alone.

And if that’s not your bag, then fine. If you have other ways to cheer yourself up, or prefer to chug through life in a miasma of cynicism and practicality because that’s what works for you, then go ahead. Honestly, I admire it. But it doesn’t work for me.

Despite my belief in rationality, calmness, lack of drama, realism, honesty and completely straight-talking (to the point where I’ve got into trouble) I ultimately can’t deal with too much reality in my own head. And I am not the type to escape into drugs or alcohol to get away from it (beyond a couple of G&Ts and Dairy Milks, anyway).

When you’re single after having not been, the reality is always there, knocking.

Reminding you of your shortcomings and things that aren’t going so right, that you could always sort of mask when you were with someone else, or that were compensated for because you had someone else to focus on.

Sometimes it’s as simple as wishing you could talk to them about whatever just happened, but you can’t. Sometimes it’s that profound feeling of loneliness that hits you, cold in the chest, for no real reason as soon as you step into a hot, packed train. Sometimes it’s the once-joyful memories that used to be shared, that pop uninvited into your head, and are now just evidence of the different paths you were travelling on all along, or that creeping feeling that you’re going to be alone for ever.

Or that raging anger at the fact that some people seemingly find a partner without too much hassle, while the rest of us keep getting our hearts smashed, as if we ACTUALLY LIKE being dysfunctional and heart-broken. You know, for giggles.

I can’t cope with all that shit alone (or other on-going crap, such as my parents’ not-always-great health, the state of my bank account, what the economy might do to my job prospects, whether I’ll ever afford my own place, or hell, even my middle-class guilt at caring about all that).

It makes me feel desperate, panicked and sad. I need my slogans, if you want to call them that. I need my collective wisdom in pithy, memorable sentences to remind me that others have felt similarly and survived (without going to bed for a month). I need the knowledge of crowds and the kind words of strangers.

I was all over this kind of inspirational shit when I started exercising. And I’m all over some other sorts right now.

And sometimes, I see things that are so helpful, and that feel so relevant to life in general, that I post them on Facebook and *gasp* SOMETIMES, on Twitter.

The bad ones are awful, and I hope I have the serenity to never post one.

The good ones help give me hope and power and thirst for life. And for that, I am grateful. And if I post one that pisses you off, then I’m sorry.

So yes, I am that “OTT inspirational bullshit” person. For anyone who hates this, you can just hide my posts or unfollow me. For anyone whose day might be just momentarily improved, once, or a few times after, then great.

Anyway, The Debrief said that you should never unfollow people like me, because, I quote: “it’ll be 4am, you’ll have had your heart broken and be scrolling through your newsfeed desperately trying to avoid clicking on your ex’s profile when suddenly you’ll see ‘8 reasons you should let go and move on’ as shared by your mate who posts OTT inspirational bullshit. And it won’t feel like bullshit.”

They finish: “Nobody ever got hurt by a little uplifting bullshit, OK?”

AMEN TO THAT, OK? Welcome to the inspirational bullshit club. 🙂