THE CASH FLOW

It seems like only yesterday we were all on a level playing field.

Only really able to afford H&M, Primark and bits from the ASOS sale. We’d drink to get drunk before heading out and we’d have a similar amount of pennies in our purses.

In the last couple of years, however, although we’ve all definitely moved on from bargain bins and can each afford at least one drink in a real life bar on a Friday night, things have changed. We’ve taken different career paths, life has thrown some of us all the luck in the world, and others, a good few curve balls. We’ve travelled, we’ve temped, we’ve climbed ladders. We’ve joined wallets with boys. We’ve changed direction. The result of all the twists and turns of our twenties has meant we now don’t all have the same amount in our pockets as before. It’s all gone a bit sort of ‘The One With Five Steaks And An Eggplant‘ episode in Friends. At times it can be frustrating, at others it can be awkward.

Luckily, my friends and I aren’t stupid. We acknowledge that our salaries range from modest to hefty. We cater for somewhere in the middle and we shop, eat and drink within our means. We lend each other cash if we need to and celebrate when the money comes a flowing. Finances are rarely a big deal, but the divide is there, and I’ve a horrible feeling it’s only going to become more obvious as time goes on. I know nobody’s talking about it, but with destination weddings in abundance, babies popping up left, right and centre, and many buying houses in the city, I can’t be the only 28 year old wondering where all the money came from, can I? And if I am, perhaps I should’ve started to think about my finances a little sooner than now.

In truth, money has never meant a great deal to me. In fact, I’ve never really given it more than thirty seconds of thought, if I’m honest. Probably because I’ve never really had it. I didn’t place any importance on it and have always spent every penny of what I’ve earned, which has been fun, but not a particularly sensible decision.

I won’t go into detail about what I’ve learnt about money in the last few months right now, because I’ve written a little something for The Coven about how I’m feeling about the current cash flow situation, but I thought it might be helpful for those of you who are also feeling this way right now, to know you’re not alone. To know that there are still some of us who can’t afford that popular designer handbag, the fancy car or a house in London. And that’s okay. As long as you’re keeping enough aside for a rainy day.

Turns out, by simply saving a little each month, cutting back on take out coffee and not buying that pair of boots you think you can’t live without can make all the difference when it comes to the big stuff.

People tend to avoid to talking about money, but I’m starting to think we’d be much better off if we did.

So let’s start today.

If you have any money saving tips or advice, get in touch. I’m all ears (and empty pockets), ready to learn.

THE JOY OF NOT SHARING

I talk too much.

I’ve been told so since I was a kid.

Talking the ears off mum as we traipsed up and down Oxford Street. Not stopping for breath in Maths. ‘Chatty’ etched into pretty much every school report I ever had (along with ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘sociable’, and we all know what those adjectives really mean when spouted from the mouths of teachers).

And even well into adulthood, not much has changed.

I’ll talk about anything that springs to mind. Form opinions on anything you fancy. And when it comes to life crises, relationship woes and friendship concerns, I voice those too. Heart on sleeve for life, that’s the Aries way.

Now, lots of therapists and elders will tell you that’s great. That talking is healthy. We’re constantly encouraged to ‘speak up’ and ‘get things off our chest’ in order to help improve our mental health, but you know what, I’m not so convinced spilling all of the beans all of the time is such a good idea.

As someone who keeps other people’s secrets entirely to themselves, but airs all their dirty laundry online or over a negroni or two with my best ones, I’ve learnt that vocalising your worries or concerns can actually sometimes be detrimental to one’s decision-making, overall happiness and ability to work out who you are. Being silent, and not giving a trivial problem room to breathe has a lot to answer for.

Sounds unhealthy, right? Probably is, for someone who can keep their trap shut for more than thirty seconds.

But for those of you who can’t, hear me out.

Decisions both large and small, I struggle to make them. I always order last in a restaurant. I rarely paint my nails in anything other than white, navy or nude. In fact, I never do, yet I own around 80 different shades of various polish. Big life decisions? Give me a month. Other people, quieter people, seem to make decisions left, right and center. For me, a talker, I weigh myself down with so many opinions that I rarely know what I want. If I listened to the voice inside my head instead of talking all the time, perhaps I’d stop drowning out my own thoughts and be able to hear myself a little clearer.

The problem with sharing so much is that people will respond to what you’re saying, and rightly so. But as helpful as it may seem, collecting so many opinions can also be quite damaging. The two cents of others can tend to muddle your own thinking and push what you really think or want to the back of your mind, which in turn, is just as unhealthy (and counter-productive) as not talking at all.

Recently, I’ve realised that keeping some things private is a good idea. I’ve been sharing less with friends and I actually feel a heck of a lot better for it. There’s less judgment, less pressure and I think I’m finally working out what I really want. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a very long time.

Although I’m going against what pretty much all psychologists will tell you, I do think that for those of us who like to chat or find decision-making a struggle, we might actually be better off saying nothing and figuring things out in our own mind and time instead of constantly conversing with friends and family. That way, we might get what we really want as opposed to what we think we should be aiming for.

They do say silence is golden, and I think they (in some cases) could be right.

THE GHOSTING

If you’ve reached the end of your twenties without coming into contact with a ghost, then lucky you. You smashed it. Congratulations on not having to have endured that sort of strange silent rejection, because let me tell you, it’s pretty weird when it happens.

I mean, it’s never happened to me in a romantic sense, but I have been ghosted by a friend.

Yep, that’s right, one moment things were (albeit not entirely as rosy as they once were) fine. We had drifted a little but we were both busy and she had just got into a new relationship. The next moment? I wasn’t getting a reply to messages. I kept trying and all I got was either nothing or a, ‘Yep, maybe we’ll see each other soon’. No kiss.

I’ve asked mutual mates and they’ve said they’re none the wiser, although I’m not sure this is entirely true.

For the nine years we knew each other, from that very first toastie we shared on the corridor floor of our first-year halls, to the last drink we shared, we were inseparable. We had the most fun. So many of my favourite memories are of getting drunk and dancing with her. Staying in with her when she had a broken leg. Doing shots in the middle of the afternoon because, hey, we’re young. We would talk for hours about boys. She hated how crude I was and I thought it hilarious how prudish she was. We loved anchovies, soppy love songs and Eastenders. It was the sort of friendship that was hard to find.

It’s been two years now and I still haven’t a clue what I’ve done or what’s happened or changed. I’ve sort of decided on a reason, but can’t be 100% sure it’s correct. I’m probably way off the mark. I’m so baffled by the events of the last couple of years that this Valentine’s Day, I even sent her an ‘I miss you’ text and got nothing in return. I didn’t feel hurt or rejected; I knew it was time to let go.

And that’s the thing with ghosting.

It gets to a point where it just doesn’t hurt as much anymore, a bit like grief. In fact, if anything, I’d say it can be far less painful than being confronted with the reason you aren’t wanted as a friend or lover, anymore. That way, you can pretend it’s not you; it’s them, and live under a blanket of blissful ignorance that you didn’t actually do anything wrong. That is was their issue.

So, to the friend who ghosted me, if you’re reading this, which I doubt you are, and to all the other Caspers out there: you’re not teaching anyone a lesson, in fact, you’re not making any sort of point at all, except for the fact I must’ve mistaken you for a much better human being in the first place.

If you want closure, always have the guts to do it properly, because I’m fairly certain the only person you’re hurting in the long run, is yourself.

THE ICK

If you’re a Love Island hater, look away now, because things are about to get pretty vacuous around here.

The other week, Olivia (one of my favourite contestants on this year’s sex fuelled extravaganza) spoke about catching The Ick and I want to talk about it, because it’s something I’ve experienced many times throughout my dating life and I’m thrilled to learn it’s a shared sentiment and not just me being picky.

There was the journalist who stood up in front of a crowded bar and pretended to be Dermot O’Leary presenting the X Factor during a date in one of London’s coolest spots, The Troubador. There was the barman who ate Nachos far too loudly next to me on a trip to the cinema. There was the banker who was sick in the taxi home. The almost perfect one who wore camo print trousers. The musician who had horrid hands and feet. The teacher who wore rubber soled, platform shoes. The poor chap who was too scared to kiss me. And finally, the gap year fling who insisted on wearing a beanie, even though we were seeing each other throughout the summer.

Whenever I dated anyone, there would be something ridiculous that would put me off. I would then complain to mum about their imperfections, regaling her with yet another tale of yet another dumping, and she would say to me, ‘It wouldn’t matter if you liked him’.

And she was right. Without even knowing it, she had identified The Ick.

Catching it is actually a pretty uncontrollable reality. It creeps up on you when you least expect it. One day, you can be excited about your latest squeeze and the next, he rocks up to a BBQ to meet all your mates in a pair of white Birkenstocks. You didn’t see it coming. The guy you thought was a catch, now falls to the bottom of the pile and even the thought of him sitting opposite you at dinner becomes unbearable.

That’s when you know you’ve caught it. You go cold. You grow distant. You want out.

Of course, The Ick isn’t always brought on by a poor choice of footwear. The sad truth is, they might not even have done anything wrong when it suddenly dawns on you that kissing them would be like kissing your cousin and that you want to get as far away from them as humanly possible.

If you’ve ever experienced it for yourself, you’ll know that The Ick is more stubborn than Herpes when you catch it, and there certainly isn’t a universal trigger which causes that incessant need to get out immediately, but without it, we wouldn’t find someone more suitable. In fact, I like to see it as a nice little gift from Mother Nature to tell us that the person we’re dating isn’t quite right for us. That we need to get out. That this one isn’t the one.

It leads us onto bigger and better Ick-Free relationships with men like my current boyfriend, for example, who has publicly showed himself up more times than Kerry Katona and still can’t make me catch The dreaded Ick, no matter how hard he tries.

On our first date, he waited over an hour for me to arrive. I normally would’ve cringed at the thought of someone sticking around so long. Later that night, he swung a lampshade across the bar at The Shard and pretended it didn’t happen instead of making light of the situation. Whilst we were dating, we were texting a lot, and let’s just say spelling isn’t his strong point, something that would have made me want to die in any other instance. Over the past 3 years, he’s worn boxer shorts in the pool on a group holiday because he forgot his swimwear. He sent me a photograph of his blackened toenail that later fell off (he sent me a photo of this, too). He sits down when he pees, hates Jeremy Corbyn and didn’t know who The Maccabees were when I expressed my sorrow at their departure from music.

He’s done so much more to make me catch The Ick than the others, so why haven’t I?

Because I actually like him. And genuinely liking or loving someone is the only prevention from this one.

So, with this in mind, it’s safe to say that Olivia was right to move on, and Tyla should follow suit – because there ain’t no coming back from this one, even if there is 50k and a deal with Miss Pap at stake. And to all those men (the majority of whom are either married or in long term relationships now) who I turned away due to that feeling: you know what they say, one woman’s Ick is another woman’s perfect date… or something like that.

Listen to that little whisper from Mother Nature, ladies. Like all mums, she knows best.

THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO BRISTOL

The best thing to happen to Bristol (aside from me moving here and a Polpo opening up on Whiteladies Road, of course) has actually arrived in the form of the most affectionate app in the world.

Yep, you heard it right. As if the city wasn’t kind enough already, a man named Paul and a woman called Alice have just brought a whole heap of added goodness to the west country with the gifting app of the future.

It’s called Huggg.

Yes, with three gs. They’re gangster like that.

Huggg is an upgrade on a well written WhatsApp, a thought out iMessage or a line of meticulously thought out emojis. It’s better than the age old poke on Facebook and it’s certainly an improvement on those gift cards you find at the bottom of your bag, months after they’ve expired. It’s everything your long distance relationship has been waiting for. It’s what will save parents waving their children off to university in September from having a breakdown. And, truth be told, it’s the stuff every lazy girl’s dreams are made of.

But what is it and how does it work?

Huggg basically allows you to send coffee, cocktails, burgers or breakfasts to anyone you like. As long as you have a phone and their number, of course.

If you’re away on a work trip and not there to sleep next to that special someone, send them a soup to spoon instead. If your best friend graduates and you can’t be there to congratulate them, send them a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate. Or if your colleague is hanging at work, send them a caffeinated pick me up from across the office.

Although there is nothing better than a real life hug, huggg is a pretty great alternative if you are a little too far away to reach.

Currently, only available in Bristol and Bath, download the app and get started today.

P.S. I’d love an iced soya latte from Friska if anyone’s offering.

Happy huggging!

THE VENT

When I get home from work or dinner with friends and need to vent about something, I need my boyfriend to do the very opposite of what he does.

Instead of flying off the handle with me, spitting with exuberance and joining me in berating all and sundry for something no doubt trivial, he remains as cool, calm and collected as he would be on a sun lounger, sipping on an ice cold mojito in the med. He will kiss my head, laugh and tell me everything will be okay. That there’s a reason for everybody’s actions and that I’ll think differently in the morning.

All well and good, but where’s the fucking satisfaction in that?

I need him to agree with me and flail his arms in annoyance with whoever it is that has wound me up that day, if only for a minute or two. I need him to get as worked up as my friends do when I vent to them on Whatsapp – even through my phone, I can feel the hot air rising as I tell my best friend about the colleague who bought the same dress as me and wore it into the office. Instead, he behaves completely rationally and politely declines the offer to revel in my frustrations. Each and every time.

I thought this infuriating dynamic was one only we shared. We’re very different, so I assumed it was just another discrepancy between us, but the other day, my little cousin shared a hilarious meme about this very issue and I quickly came to realise it was a worldwide problem for women to add to their list.

Be them life-long mates, recent additions to my phone book or online acquaintances, this is one of the many reasons why I will always need my girlfriends. To frantically text at 2 am until my thumbs are sore and shout loudly with each other about someone we’ve never even heard of over too many beers, just to make each other feel better.

No, this doesn’t serve to facilitate the age-old assumption that women are hysterical and men are rational human beings. It’s basically just like the male version of a punch up. Do this, and we move on. Don’t do this, and we will accuse you of siding with them.

The choice is yours, fellas.

THE RELATIONSHIP

Recently, I wrote about not comparing myself to others as I get older, but on reflection, I’m not sure what I said is 100% true.

Sure, I might no longer care if I’m two dress sizes bigger than my best friend or that I can’t afford that Gucci t shirt anymore, but when it comes to my relationship? I can’t stop comparing mine to filtered versions of other people’s.

I mean, I’m fairly certain it’s an age thing. With weddings, christenings, baby showers and house keys littering my feeds, I’m sort of forced to compare myself in a way. To question whether I want what they have. To wonder why I don’t. Or at least think about why I have something different. Of course, it comes down to circumstance and even a desire to have those things at all, but even after years of preaching and listening to others preach about not being fooled by the falseness of people’s lives displayed on social media, I still get sucked into this behaviour, time and time again.

But why?

Every single morning I am kissed on the head and told to have a good day. Each evening, I sit down to eat with my flat mate and best friend. We laugh. We talk. And I am happy. Why, then, do I scroll through Instagram, through reams of people getting engaged, wondering why I haven’t been proposed to yet (somehow forgetting I’m not even sure how I feel about marriage). I hate that we don’t share a bottle of wine with dinner like other couples because he doesn’t like the taste of it (ignoring the fact I often prefer a beer anyway). And I wonder why we don’t own a home, knowing exactly the reasons why.

Of course, not comparing yourself to others on social media is all stuff you’ve heard before, but if you, like me, are 28 and wondering why your life doesn’t look like other people’s, question whether your themed grid on Instagram or perfectly crafted Facebook statuses are a true reflection of what’s going on in your life. I’m sure you haven’t shouted about that explosive (and completely unnecessary) row you had over socks being left by the wash bin or hair in the sink, and I’m almost certain you haven’t told all and sundry about those very real struggles, life choices or dips in the road you’ve experienced or been going through together.

Only when you realise you’re comparing yourself to something that doesn’t even exist, will you stop partaking in this very common losing battle. Just focus on doing what makes you and your other half happy, not what others are doing  to make them happy and you’ll start to feel about ten billion times more content with where you’re at right now.

THE PAST – AN ANONYMOUS GUEST POST

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I recently started seeing a wonderful boy.

I have know him for years and years and suddenly he asked me out. It’s been truly blissful and I may have accidentally fallen a bit, sort of, kind of… well, you know.

In an honest conversation, he remarked that I could ask him anything and he would never lie. I giggled that there was nothing I felt I needed to know that would bother me, unless he had done something hideous like slept with a prostitute (something I know a male friend has done on a trip to “the dam”).

With an expression that can only be described as a man about to commit harikari he blurted out he had.

Twice.

I took a few days to think about it and in the end we had a lengthy, upsetting, painful conversation-come-lecture where I expressed the deep level of horror I felt about what he had done. I chose to take the role of educator – figuring men just aren’t taught to see prostitution the way I and many other women have taught themselves to think about it.

I outlined for him:

  • the objectification of women.
  • the abuse of women in the sex industry.
  • consensual/non-consensual intercourse and the idea that prostitution is almost rape.
  • the actual women and their lives, histories, families, lack of opportunities and education that would lead them into doing it.
  • the crimes surrounding an industry he has now paid into: drugs, trafficking, etc.
  • what this means about his integrity. Saying no to his stupid mates when they suggest something as vile as that on a lad’s holiday.
  • the culture of the privileged: see, want, take.

Anyway, he cried, I cried, and in the end I decided I didn’t want to let his past ruin his or my future and we are trying to move on. He was 18 and then 24 (excuse me while I gag at how sick this makes me feel) and now at 30 he is devastated about it. Friends told me the only person who could ruin this relationship is me, because he didn’t know me when he did this, there’s nothing he can do to undo it and he hasn’t done anything TO ME.

I guess I am just not quite over it yet.

I am not sure the respect can come back.

He has since traveled the world and grown into a grounded, sensitive and incredible guy, but I somehow feel as though we aren’t moral equals anymore. A lot of my friends brush this off and say I am being OTT, but unfortunately this is something that makes me want to move to an island and live with Kirsty Young where it’s safe.

Obviously I don’t want to use my name here. And I don’t wish to paint my other half as a baddie because he is quite literally devastated about his decisions and I am really proud of him for telling me the truth – although he probably didn’t realise who he was messing with when he opened his mouth to confess.

I think there’s a lot more I could unpack re. lad culture, etc. but I honestly feel sick if I think about it too much, so I think I’ll leave it there instead.

Anon.

THE PADDY’S DAY

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On this day in 2006, I lost one of the most important women in my life, very suddenly and unexpectedly.

I was sitting in a history lesson when a kid in my year came in to say my head of sixth form wanted to see me. Everyone ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ that I was in trouble, but as soon as I walked upstairs to his office and saw mum standing there, I knew something was up.

Nan had a thick Irish accent, even after living in London for over thirty years. She cooked bacon and cabbage on the regs and had a cackle as loud as mine – perhaps that’s where I got it from, actually?

From a very young age, I knew she was the bomb-diggity.

We would stroll up and down the Portobello Road, popping into Woolworths to buy me secret treats I wasn’t to tell mum and dad about. We would walk hand in hand as she told me all about Mrs Boyle and the doctors at the surgery she worked at. She was actually pretty nosy and not very good with the whole confidentiality thing, thinking about it, but I enjoyed the stories nonetheless.

I would sit and stare at her from the sofa next to her chair as she smoked her way through packets of Silk Cut, wondering what it was like to smoke and whether granddad minded her doing it as he read his books or drew his pictures, nicotine-free.

I would go to bingo with her near her chalet by the sea, losing every time but somehow coming out with vouchers to spend in the shop next door. Mum hated the tat I would bring home from there but, much to her dismay, I couldn’t get enough of the naff key rings and stuffed toys from the seaside.

I would sit with her, knitting (badly) as she churned out jumpers and socks like it was nothing, talons in tact, tapping away, telling me I was doing just fine. I don’t think I nailed anything more than a couple of rows of wool, but she made me feel like a pro.

We would dance around the kitchen to an Irish tape I still have.

We watched as women from Carnival floats danced on by her home in Ladbroke Grove. Nan even let one lady use her loo, free of charge. Her costume terrified me as a tot.

Whenever mum and dad went out, I would always choose to stay at hers. Mainly because I pretty much had my own room there (complete with double bed), but also because I liked playing with the china dolls she had dotted around the house (until I broke one and cried my eyes out while she told me it really didn’t matter and glued the head back on, hiding it from grandad).

I would refuse the boiled Irish dinners she would cook, knowing in doing this, she would give me exactly what I wanted: cubes of cucumber and cheese covered in salt and pepper, alongside slices of fresh bread with butter layered thick enough to give a young kid a heart attack.

Even into my teenage years, I still loved going round to nan’s house. I used to love the plates of snacks she laid out on birthdays and the cards with swirly writing she always gave me that smelt of smoke. I particularly enjoyed the one pound coin she would press into the palm of my hand with a wink as I headed out the door, even aged 15.

And then, one day, she wasn’t there anymore. I couldn’t just pop round and see her. There would be no more chats about school or homework or boyfriends.

I was more devastated than anyone probably ever knew.

As a family of O’Briens, St Patrick’s Day has always been special, but for the past 11 years it has meant so much more than green clothes and Guinness. I still find it hilarious (as she would’ve) that someone so Irish passed on Paddy’s Day, so when I lift my glass tonight, as I do every year, I know who I’ll be cheersing to.

Miss you daily, lady.

Happy St Patrick’s Day.