THE DUMPING GROUND

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Being loved by someone is the greatest feeling in the world.

Until they stop loving you.

And then you turn into a fire-breathing, flesh-eating monster with zero comprehension of what is acceptable behaviour under the given circumstances and what is not.

You’ll text him even when you’ve told your friends you won’t. You’ll call him even when every bone in your body is telling you not to. You’ll stalk his Facebook/Instagram/Insert Social Media Platform Of Choice Here, even when you know you’ll feel awful afterwards. You’ll make out like you have a ton of dates lined up on your Twitter when all you have is the prospect of a Sunday night Tinder session and some leftover pizza. You’ll screen shot quotes from Instagram. A lot. And if you’re feeling really fruity, you’ll send them to him. You’ll befriend his friends in a bid to make him realise what he’s missing out on, only for it to backfire when you catch wind of a conversation about his new flame. And last, but by no means least, you’ll have sub-standard sex with him in secret and shrug it off as nothing less than liberating, staking claim to being in control when really all it did was make you want to eat a double cheese burger and die.

The truth is, the months that follow a break up are more turbulent than a Ryan Air flight to Amsterdam, so why do we only talk freely about our most amicable breakups and bypass those that make us feel like our hearts are going to fall out of our vaginas? We always focus on the standard splits that lead you to rebound with Tony from work in the bathroom of a house party in Finchley when really we should be discussing the break ups that turn you into a complete head case and make you cry so hard that you look as though you’ve gone ten rounds against George Groves.

But we don’t. Instead, when our friends seek us out for advice after being dumped, we behave like the stuff that the pages of Cosmo are made of. 

You know the drill. You quickly fall into autopilot, rallying the troops and heading round to her place, armed with sweet treats, your brother’s Netflix password and a whole load of not particularly useful advice. We regurgitate clichés about time being a healer and how going cold turkey is the best thing for it, completely forgetting what it’s actually like to be in her position. Instead of doing this, we should be preparing her for the hell that is to come, because you know that no matter how many M&Ms you feed her, or however many episodes of OITNB she watches, she is, no doubt, headed down the brutal – and pretty unavoidable – path of getting over someone. And that path ain’t lined with roses, let me tell you. It’s paved with hobgoblins and sharp objects.

Basically, she’s about to behave like a dick and listen to not one jot of your advice. She’s going to do shameful things she’ll never want to talk about ever again and she will tell you she’s okay when actually she spends every night crying on the phone to her mum and looking at zodiac love matches online. But far from persuading her to do otherwise, just try to assure her that we’ve all been there. Because we have, even though we rarely admit to it. And it’s the only exit route to freedom, I’m afraid.

I guess what I am trying to say is that if you are currently in the throes of a break up and all the books and magazines are telling you that you should ‘Slap on a new lipstick!’ ‘Mingle!’ and ‘Go get ’em tiger!’ when all you want to do is call him fifty times and scream into a pillow for ten days, I’m telling you to do just that. Basically, you’re about to get weird. But instead of shying away from it, feed the madness because, dear friend, you are not ready for the world until you’ve got this exhausting phase (that people rarely talk about) out of your system. I think that by constantly pretending that breaks ups can be cured with sugar and a quick shag, we really underestimate how bad they can be, when in fact, it’s not going to be easy, nor is it going to be brief. 

By acting like a complete lunatic in the weeks that follow a split, I guarantee you will find the path back to normality. Eventually. And although it might not feel like it right now, there will come a time where you will hold your hands up to your, quite frankly, off the chart behaviour, clink glasses and laugh at the bad times with friends. But until then, be miserable, be sad, be weird and make mistakes. It’s called grief.

Break ups suck, basically. But they’re supposed to, especially when the love is real. You’ll be just fine.

Give it time.

THE BEST FRIEND’S BOYFRIEND

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No, I haven’t done the unthinkable.

I am simply here to celebrate how wonderful it is when your friend falls in love with someone that you do too. It’s like a sigh of relief you didn’t know you needed to take. A realisation that you can relax now; they’re being taken care of.

To be quite frank, the men who have chosen to be in the lives of my six besties are super human. They must be for having to put up with not understanding a single joke from our school days and still making the effort to laugh at every single one. Not to mention tolerating the squeals, tears, tantrums and mini (and also incredibly rare) fall outs we have.

But despite the list of reasons to love them, you don’t realise quite how much you appreciate your best friend’s boyfriend until they bundle you all into an Uber after a night out. Until they’re giving you life advice at 3am in the corner of the BBC Introducing Tent. Until they offer you pizza on a hungover Sunday after letting you sleep in their bed whilst they snooze upstairs with their housemate. When they cope for 5 days in a tent with 6 of you girls with no other boy company in sight. When they put you on their shoulders at a gig even though you probably weigh more than they do. When they nurse your mate when she’s definitely over the limit. When they invite you to their birthday without knowing you because they know it’ll make her feel better. And when they write you a blog post when you’re short on Tory opinions.

Of course, in the past, I haven’t taken a shining to all of their choices. There was the guy who cheated on one of them in front of me- I mean come on, I am standing RIGHT HERE. Then there was the one who didn’t only want one, but two girlfriends at the same time- I have to admit that (although an absolute creature feature) his ability to multi task was tremendous. Then there was the one who dumped her on her birthday. And the one who just stopped texting. And then there are the collective of those who were just a bit odd, a bit not right for them and the ones who used their hands a bit too much. Then of course there are the ones we all loved and are rather sad to see the back of. But such is life, let’s not dwell on it too much.

Your best friend’s boyfriends are an exclusive group of men who you can hang out with without the fear of them staring at your chest, giving you skewed advice or any of the other things single men do that are annoying. They are the friends you never knew you had. Or even wanted.

I might be tempting fate here by singing their praises – they could easily, of course, turn out to be five little beasties – but all I know is that right now I have a beautiful extension of my friends in the loveliest way possible, in the form of beards, great music taste and a whole lot of patience.

Never underestimate the value of your best friend’s boyfriend because, when it comes to her fleeing the friendship nest and diving into proper adulthood (i.e. marriage, mortgages and babies), you’re going to hope he’s a good’un.

Be thankful for the great men in your life. And more importantly, your friend’s lives.

THE SINGLE LIFE

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After a year and a half of being betrothed to a beard, I have found myself in the single seat.

And I have no idea what I am doing.

There’s just way too much to think about.

All of a sudden I have to make sure I don’t get too drunk on a Friday because there is no one there to throw a jacket over my shoulders and chaperone me to my bed whilst singing songs from Frozen en route – except for my girls of course – but they’re normally ten gins down with me. I now have no excuses for putting on a few extra pounds because there is nobody overfeeding me Maltesers on the sofa anymore. I have to think about how I am dancing at parties, make sure that I look decent enough for public consumption more than just 50% of the time and I have to re-learn how to make sexy (but never starey) eye-contact with strangers because one wrong move apparently and you can end up giving your number to someone who – let’s face it – isn’t even halfway up your street.

It’s safe to say I am out of my depth. It’s also safe to say I am not alone in this.

I was talking to a guy at a house party on Saturday about the fact that he has found himself newly single for the first time in ten years. It has been 18 months for me and I’ve lost all control of my hands and – apparently – tongue, so imagine how he feels? He said a hot girl asked his name the other night and he shouted back, “I have a girlfriend!” and ran away. I could tell he was struggling with being a suave single male addicted to retail when he began performing show tunes (solo) all the way until 6am with a deranged look in his eye. Luckily for him he’s very good looking and I’m fairly certain he’ll grow out of it, otherwise I’d have told him to give up and find a cave to reside in with Lloyd-Webber for the rest of his life.

But back to me and my own incompetencies.

Adjusting to being single isn’t solely about struggling with being back in the dating game. It’s about watching a lot more Netflix and eating fewer takeaways. It’s about having a lack of warm jumpers to wear around the house, turning down plus ones to weddings and not having to compromise, which, I guess, is what your twenties were made for. But it is hard, no matter what Queen B says.

Although this newfound single status has been thrust upon me unwillingly, there is nothing to do except for enjoy it for what it is: a whole lot of me time. Of course, realising that the break up is a good thing will have to be scheduled between tears and regretful emails (no I’m not overly formal, I’ve just deleted his number), but it will happen. I just need to keep reminding myself that being able to put on a face mask of an evening trumps a spoon and some cake in bed. And let’s be honest, nothing beats a cuddle and some chocolate gateau, so this might take a while.

Basically, I’m single. And it’s a bit weird. And a bit sad. On the plus side however, it will probably make for some excellent writing material.

I will inevitably keep you posted on what I’ve been up to.

Wish me luck!

THE MANNERS

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Caitlin Moran – a somewhat predictable heroine of mine – once told a popular women’s magazine that her marriage works because her and her husband make sure that they’re always polite to each other.

This is going to sound awful, but it really struck a chord with me as it’s something I often forget to do.

Now, don’t get me wrong, manners were drummed into me as a child. People on the tube, waitresses and shop assistants get my good side and a please, thank you and an over zealous “sorry” to those I hardly know are a given. But when it comes to the people I love? I can be really quite rude.

I used to see it as just ‘my nature’. I liked to think of myself as a straight-talking, know what I want sort of woman, but if the gobbiest feminist of them all is telling me to reign in the rudeness a little with the man I love, then perhaps I should? Not in a desperate housewives sort of way, of course. Just in a sort of decent human being way.

Naturally, when you’re that tight with someone, or the going gets tough (which it inevitably will in life), then it’s impossible to be the best version of yourself all day, every day. The truth is, with them, you shouldn’t have to be. But aside from that, it would just be exhausting and unnatural, so we save our best sides for work colleagues, people we’re sat with at weddings and mum’s best friend Geraldine. In front of our other halves, however, we turn into hobgoblins, Jekylls, Hydes and everything in between.

Why? Because we can, of course.

Although it’s okay to have a good moan to your partner in crime of an evening about gripes and grievances faced throughout the day, it’s not their fault that you forgot your Oyster that morning, or that you didn’t get the promotion you deserve. They didn’t single-handedly form that massive queue in Wasabi on your lunch break and it wasn’t them that cancelled on you yet again. So don’t take it out on him. Or her.

Without thinking, we start to use the people we love the most as our emotional punch bags because we know they can’t sack you and they’re unlikely to turn their back on your tears. We know that they will instead be wiping them away and telling you what a wally you are whilst running you a hot bath to make it all better. This is love, yes, but don’t take it for granted. They’re only human and will walk eventually. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and (who’d have thought it?!) manners.

Don’t get me wrong, if they’ve recorded over the next episode of OITNB or nabbed the last slab of Galaxy, then let them know about it. But don’t talk to them as though they’ve just killed your brother. And don’t say something you’ll later regret, which is very easy to do.

So the next time you feel like flying off the handle at the only person who will listen, remember what my (and probably your) hero said and just be polite. And use your words instead of losing your shit.

So simple, yet apparently so effective.

I used to think that marriage sounded like a bit of a chore, but if that’s the secret to a successful one, then count me in.

THE BIRTHDAY

large (12)It’s that wonderful time of year again where I gain a wrinkle, four grey hairs and have a crisis of age.

I love birthdays.

Obviously the cards, presents and celebratory food cushion the blow, but why do I always panic when I realise that I’m another year older despite understanding – since the tender age of five – the simple concept of time?

Despite this blind, undying ignorance, birthdays aren’t all bad. Because mine happens to fall in the spring time – the season best known for new beginnings, bunny rabbits and general pinterest-worthy joyousness – I always treat them like a second New Year. I pledge vows to myself and set targets for the year ahead by reflecting on the things I’d have done differently, and of course, I rarely stick to my promises. So I thought, why break the habit of a life time?

Because I’m older, and a little wiser now. That’s why.

It’s essential to think about improvement, but it’s equally as important to realise how far you’ve come. So I will start by thinking about the things that I know now, that I wish I knew then.

Here goes:

One. Things take time. This includes everything from projects, to love.

Don’t. Rush. Anything.

Two. Most people deserve a second chance. Rarely do people deserve a third.

Three. Do not, under any circumstances, fad diet. Just maybe cut down on the Kit Kats.

Four. Yoga is a whole lot more than stretching in tight pants. The older you get, the more you’ll realise this.

And five. Having fewer good friends is better than having lots of shit ones.

I could go on and on, as 25 years is actually quite a long time, but the gist is this: things will always be okay. Yes, I have had my heartbroken, but it’s fixed now. Of course, I have failed at things, but I’ve succeeded in so many others. And, much like you, I cut my own hair once. Badly. But it’s grown out now. What I’m trying to say is, despite living with these goddamn freckles and a butt the size of Narnia my entire life, there are plenty of people who would kill to be you or I. So instead of trying to better ourselves each year, why not give ourselves a pat on the back, just for making it this far? Because life isn’t always a lemon sorbet at the seaside, if you know what I mean? And we’re probably doing alright, considering.

Behind a haze of pollution and astonishing drink prices, it’s really rather easy to forget why you’re alive, but when your birthday swings round, and people come together just to celebrate the simple fact that you were born, it all, very suddenly, becomes oh so clear.

Always be thankful for what you have. And I’m not talking about that new camera.

Happy Birthday to me.

HAPPY PLACE

Whenever something goes wrong, I head to Hyde Park.

Whether the god-awful Winter Wonderland is on or whether it’s hot enough to take a dip in the lido, it’s the place that I go to do all of my best thinking. I’m hard pushed in central London to find places to clear my mind and, as one of the more greener settings in the capital, it really helps to escape the concrete and just… breathe.

Luckily for me, the park is walking distance from my parent’s house. Yes, I know. This means that I can just slip on a pair of boots and take a wander to my happy place at a moments notice.

This weekend, for no particular reason, Ryan and I decided to cycle to that happy place and it was as DI-VINE as always.

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  Whether you’re visiting London or have lived here longer than I have, an afternoon spent exploring our most famous park is an afternoon well spent.

THE HURT

cc9b98bcb67ced3ed24e5fbd9d8cf0f8Every time I feel like a boy has been mean to me and I cry as though my world has come to a swift and somewhat brutal end, my mum asks me the same question: ‘Is it your heart that is broken, or is it your ego that is bruised?’

Megan from Wonderful You posted a piece about heartbreak recently. As I read it, I could feel the pain in every word that she had written and it made me think about my own bouts of heartache. Now, I have had pretty much everything possible happen to me in a relationship. I have been dumped, humiliated, lied to and now, cheated on but I don’t feel hard done by. I just feel experienced. And as a result of this, I am able to offer Megan some (potentially) quite good advice.

When you see someone you love move on with someone else, I think you’ll agree that it can hurt more than the break up itself. Even if you were the one to finish things once and for all, jealousy can still strike. But when it does, be sure to ask yourself: is my heart still broken or is it just my ego that’s a little bruised?

The way to work out the answer to this is to note down the thoughts that are popping into your head as you scroll through photos of them on Facebook or as you listen to tales about them from mutual friends. If you can’t believe that he bought her that super expensive Christmas present or you can’t fathom why he would be with someone so vanilla when you’re so god damn chocolate chip, then I think you’ll find that your ego is bruised. This can be cured with a night out or a spot of speed dating. Basically, distractions.

If, however, you’re wondering how he could cuddle her at night, whether he calls her that pet name and if he slots his foot into the crease of hers in the same way you did when you were spooning, then it’s most definitely your heart that’s broken, and I’m afraid, that one’s a lot harder to fix.

But what is some practical advice to get over it?

Talk. Talk to your girlfriends until you’re sure they’ve phased out and are now contemplating whether gorgeous Charlie will ever make a return to Girls. Talk to your mum until even she is wondering whether gorgeous Charlie will make a return to Girls. If you write, write it all down. If you don’t write, write it all down. It doesn’t have to sound like a best seller but the act of writing can be some form of therapy (which is why you sometimes probably think I overshare). Finally, don’t taunt yourself. As curious as you are about where they’re headed on their summer holiday together or what she does for a living, just don’t go there. Who cares what she does? If your heart is still aching, then his is too; men just tend to mend things a lot quicker than we do. Nothing will change the time you spent together, so allow yourself to bask in the happy memories but don’t get bogged down in them. Chances are, she’s probably feeling pretty insecure about what you both had too.

Figuring out whether it’s your heart or your ego, much like a diagnosis from your doctor, will allow you to work out how best to treat your injury. A broken arm takes around six weeks to heal in a cast, a bruise tends to fade by itself over a week; see what I’m getting at? If you’ve worked out that your heart is broken, then the only way to take action is to wrap it up in cotton wool and hold it together as tightly as you can. If this means that you have to lie in bed for a few days, or dance the night away every weekend for a month, then do just that. There’s no prescription for a broken heart I’m afraid, just sound advice from someone else who has experienced it.

I broke my wrist around ten years ago now, and whenever it gets a little bit cold outside or I sleep on it funny, I get a twinge of pain; a reminder of my broken arm. The same goes for your heart: even after it has been mended, and you are happy with someone else, you’ll always wonder what might have been and you might still even feel a momentary ache. But don’t worry, it’s just a little reminder of how you strong you are.

Just give your heart some time. But whatever you do in that time, be kind to yourself.