How I Lost 10kg

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before

 

I have recently lost just over 10kg and plan to keep going. I am not a doctor. I am not a nutritionist. I am not saying this is the best way to lose weight, I’m just saying what worked for me. Perhaps in a perfect world we’d all be vegan and only eating organic foods from the markets, etc. etc. but I’m not telling you the perfect way to eat, just a way that I found easy to stick to. I’d love to have the will power to eat “perfectly”, but I just can’t. In the end, you’re only going to keep the weight off if you have a weight-loss plan you find easy to stick to. It will be different from person to person. Here’s what is working for me.

Finding motivation

I found it very easy not to lose weight. My body wasn’t causing me any problems and I didn’t hate my body or find disgust in it. I liked my boobs. My self-esteem was healthy. I thought I was pretty awesome despite being overweight and I had people interested in me sexually and romantically so it wasn’t like being overweight was ruining my life. I liked eating junk food when I felt like it and didn’t enjoy exercise.

Sure, I had things I wanted to change about myself – I would have loved a slimmer tummy, butt and thighs if it meant I could keep the boobs – and I had the occasional bad day where I’d try on so many outfits and think they all looked crap on me, but who hasn’t? I also used to find it very frustrating that my skinnier friends would get approached over me while out clubbing almost every time. I made it a rule to never be second pick, and to only date people who hit on me first instead of after a slim friend turned them down.

My attitude at the time was: “I would rather be chubby and not have to exercise or watch what I eat than be slim and on a diet”.

Before I could even get started on my weight loss journey, that attitude had to go. You can’t start trying to lose weight if you don’t see the benefits as outweighing the work that will have to go in. You have to seriously think that it will all be worth it in the end, and that you would rather be slim and healthy than chubby and free to eat junk all the time.

So how did I get there?

First, it’s because I gained more weight. I had been a size 12 dress for years, and while I would snack on junk food, I still had pretty healthy meals. I was definitely a comfort eater though; I’d buy chocolate if I had a bad day or period pain, for example.

Then I got the role of Tracy in Hairspray and I knew that despite wearing a fat-suit, it would look weird if I didn’t stay chubby. I took the rehearsal period as a time to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I was also a student at the time and under a lot of stress trying to keep up with my studies while rehearsing most nights. If I felt like McDonald’s, I would eat it. I would buy a block of chocolate and work my way through it as I wrote an essay. I would buy chips and lollies for lunch.

I went up a dress size. Now size 14, in my opinion, still isn’t that big a size, but it was so depressing trying on dresses I’ve worn for years and struggling to get the zip up. Not being able to wear a lot of my favourite dresses any more was a motivating factor.

Next came plenty of photos that I thought I looked huge in. I think that was the wake-up call. I saw myself how, I assume, other people saw me, and wanted to make a change.

It should be added that I was in a relationship through all of this (still am). One day I said to him, “does it bother you that I’ve gained so much weight?” and he looked really confused and said “I didn’t realise you had. You look the same.” Bless his heart. I believed him. It was nice to know that even at my biggest he still thought I was hot.

The other big motivator was the next show coming up: Mamma Mia. After a boozy sing-along to Mamma Mia songs at a party, I realised I really, really, wanted the role of Sophie, and I knew that wasn’t likely to happen at the weight I was. If I had it my way, the best singer / dancer / actor for the role would get it, no matter what they looked like, but that’s not the world we live in – yet. Leading ladies tend to be slim. If you want something badly enough, you have to work for it. This won’t be the only show with roles I want in it, and I don’t want my weight to put me out of the running. In case you didn’t know already, no, I didn’t get the role, but I’m having fun in the ensemble and I’m not giving up on the weight loss journey!

Things that motivated me

  • I want to get lead roles in musicals
  • I want to be more fit
  • I want to be able to wear a larger variety of outfits (so many dress styles that are very unflattering on anyone who is chubby but that I’d love to wear one day)
  • I don’t want to feel self-conscious on the beach
  • I want to be more flexible (for dancing)

Things I learned to realise

  • The weight isn’t going to come off quickly, and to not get put off by the time it takes. If I have a day where I eat junk, then that doesn’t mean give up, it means try again tomorrow and do better.
  • That I’m not going on a diet, I’m making healthy changes for life. This was the hard one – to commit myself to something for life. It’s easy to commit to a weeklong detox, but less easy to realise you need to make changes and stick to them forever. I know I can’t just go on a diet then go back to the way I was eating. I don’t want to lose weight, feel great about it, and then just put it all back on. I have to be healthy, always, to keep it off.

How I did it

First I did my research. I spent a lot of time browsing subreddits on reddit.com such as r/loseit, r/progresspics and r/xxfitness.

The thing that kept coming up again and again is: calorie counting.

I think calorie counting has a bad rep. There are so many articles with titles like “lose weight without counting calories!” and they make it sound like anyone who does count calories is boring and spending way too much time worrying about what they eat. “Just eat healthy instead!” they say.

Well I found calorie counting a really helpful tool in educating myself about what really is healthy and how to eat the yummy stuff in moderation.

When I was a student I had a friend who was calorie counting, and at the time, chubby junk-food eater that I was, I found it annoying: What do you mean you can’t have a glass of wine with us because you spent your calories on M&M’s and popcorn? Who cares, a glass of wine won’t hurt!

That attitude is what makes it hard for people to calorie count. Their friends seem to think they’re being too strict and rigid about it and that surely one slice of cake isn’t going to stop them losing weight.

Well I’m here to say that calorie counting worked for me, it works for tons of people, and it was easier than people make it out to be.

PS: Anyone who has used Weight Watchers will know that it is essentially the same premise as counting calories, except they give a number value to products that correlates with the amount of calories in them.

I used MyFitnessPal

Myfitnesspal.com is an online calorie counting website. They have a database of every food you can think of, and if it’s not in there, you can add it to the database yourself using the nutritional info off the back of the packet.

They gave me a daily calorie goal of 1200 calories a day (you can count KJ instead if you prefer). Other websites think this is too few for my height, weight, and gender, and recommend around 1400-1500, so I keep this in mind and don’t feel bad if I go over the 1200. Normally, because of what I eat each day, I don’t need to go over it anyway.

You can imput your exercise, and that extends the amount of calories you can eat that day. For example, if I put in that I did 45 minutes of Zumba, it says I can eat an extra 475 calories. That’s a lot. Usually I don’t eat the extra calories from exercise, but if I have exercised and I’m feeling hungry later in the evening I don’t feel bad about going over the 1200 limit. I read in a blog that someone plateaued and wasn’t losing any more weight despite calorie counting and exercising, and they decided to eat the extra calories “gained” by exercising, and they found that the weight started coming off again. It’s not an exact science, so play around with it and do what works for you.

On MyFitnessPal you can save meals. When you first start out it seems a bit time consuming looking up all the ingredients in your dinner, but when you’ve done it once, you can save those ingredients into a Meal, and next time you cook it you can add it from your meals list without looking up all the ingredients in it. Plus, often people have made similar meals to you. For example if I use an Old El Paso Fajita Kit, other people may have added their own meal to the database: “Old El Paso Fajita kit with chicken breast and red capsicum” so I don’t need to. I like to try new recipes, but I have plenty of new favourites now, so I hardly ever need to look up ingredients as I have a long Meal list.

MyfitnessPal has recommendations of how much sugar, fat, carbs, etc. you should be eating within that calorie count and tells you if you’ve gone over it. So yes, technically, you could only eat chocolate one day and still be within your daily limit, but you will be far over the sugar count, and you won’t be getting the nutrients you need! The key is to combine healthy eating with calorie counting, rather than trying to fit junk food into your calorie count.

It’s not about restricting certain types of food

Plenty of people have weight-loss success from cutting food types out of their diets. Subreddits like r/keto are big advocates for a low-carb diet and that works for a lot of people. Other websites recommend cutting out sugar altogether. This can work too. In the FAQ page for r/loseit, they said that these diets work because a low carb diet or a low sugar diet are simply low calorie diets. I’m sure there’s more to it than that but…

For me personally, I had to remind myself that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life. I had to think to myself: can I give up carbs forever? Can I give up sweet treats forever? I have a real sweet tooth and many of my favourite foods have carbs in them (such as wraps and brown rice) so the answer ended up being no. It came down to “everything in moderation” being something I will find much easier to stick to forever. I can still have the things I love, just not all the time and not in huge quantities. My will power isn’t the greatest, so I need my weight-loss plan to be something I find easy to stick to, and by not cutting out food groups altogether, I am much more likely to stick with this for the long haul. But that’s just me! Do what works for you.

It’s fun finding out how many calories are in things

Once you do, you’re like, holy shit – no wonder I’m overweight!

Examples:

  • That whittakers creamy milk chocolate block I worked through while writing an essay? 1400 calories. Over my whole day’s allowance. Seems obvious, right? Don’t eat a whole block of chocolate, fatty… but over an entire evening of essay writing you’d be surprised how the pieces go and go.
  • Those four pieces of Hell’s Lust Pizza you had for dinner? 924 calories. That leaves you 274 calories for your day. If you are the type to eat a whole pizza you’re downing 1848 calories in one meal! That’s well over your daily count before even factoring in anything else you ate that day.
  • Big Mac Combo? 824 calories. Big Mac on its own is 494 calories.
  • Slice of chocolate cake? Around 300 calories.
  • That bag of pretzels you snacked on while watching a movie? 731 calories.
  • Four squares of black forest chocolate is 252 calories.
  • Two Guylian seashell chocolates? 130 calories. So many calories for something so small!
  • Bottle of Heineken? 150 calories. So if you are the binge drinking type and have, say, 7, that’s 1050 calories just on drinks.
  • Even a Jim Beam and diet coke is 65 calories and that’s one of the lower calorie options when it comes to alcohol.

So it made me realise, if I want to have those things I need to fit them into my count. I’m not going to go hungry just so I can have a few pieces of chocolate, so most days I’ll go without junk food and feel better for it. The days I do want something I have a smaller amount than usual (calorie counting is a good way to become really good at portion control!) or I’ll make sure everything else I eat that day is low calorie.

I find lower calorie options to satisfy cravings

I often crave chocolate in the evenings. Having an Avalanche sugar-free hot chocolate with trim milk (84 calories) gets rid of that craving.

Fruit also makes for a nice sweet treat.

Juicies iceblocks are only 45 calories and chocolate Paddlepops are 79 calories so those are good alternatives if you want an icecream or iceblock.

Like I said, I don’t eat 100% healthy all the time, so when I do have a treat I try and look at which is the lower calorie option.

I have cheat days

If a friend is having a party, or we are catching up and having some yummy snacks, I don’t count calories that day, and I just eat what I want. It keeps me sane, and while it may slow down the weight loss process slightly, it’s made it easier to stick to in the long run. Also I’ve found that over time I crave junk food less and less. I also make sure not to go overboard on cheat days – I don’t have McDonalds for every meal or anything. I usually stick with my normal breakfast and lunch then don’t worry about going out for takeaways or having lots of lollies for dessert.

I also think about whether the junk food on offer is something I actually want. If chocolate biscuits are on offer and I don’t even feel like one, I won’t mindlessly eat it because it’s there. I’m a more mindful eater. After eating say, a chocolate bar, I think about how I feel – was it really that great? Usually the answer is no and I remind myself of that the next time I am at the supermarket. I think to myself that losing weight will make me far happier than eating that chocolate bar will. This way when I do have a treat, it’s worth it because I know I really want it and it’s not as common an occurrence. Similarly, when I’m not feeling motivated to head out the door to Zumba, I remind myself how much I enjoy it when I’m there and how great I feel afterwards.

I don’t need to calorie count any more

For a while, I was strict about tracking what I ate every day. After about a month of doing that, I found I didn’t need to any more unless I was looking up something I hadn’t eaten before or if I was tempted to eat a sweet treat and was curious about it. I’m a creature of habit and I eat pretty much the same thing every day without it bothering me, so I’ve learnt how many calories are in the things I commonly eat and no longer need to track them.

I love to cook healthy recipes

My absolute favourite magazine is New Zealand Healthy Food Guide. I never struggle to find ingredients as they are all available here, and they keep the recipes simple. They also list how many calories are in each meal. Perfect! I feel so good about myself after chopping up fresh herbs and veggies for a meal.

I got the family on board

The whole family are on the weight loss journey together. My parents have both lost over 10kg each themselves! We know we all have a sweet tooth and that we don’t have the best willpower at times so if there is junk food in the house we will most likely eat it… so we simply don’t have it in the house. We make each other smoothies, cook healthy meals, and decided it was The Year of Motivation in our house. This means if someone suggests exercise, like walking the dog, we have to say yes instead of making excuses. This is a work in progress, haha.

What I typically eat in a day

Breakfast: Bowl of Kelloggs Sultana Bran with trim milk (278 calories)

Lunch: Smoothie made with trim milk, Healtheries Naturally Slim Vanilla smoothie powder, a handful of frozen strawberries, and a tablespoon of Yoplait Delite mixed berry yoghurt. (245 calories)

Or: Four cruskits with mango chutney, cherry tomatoes, and a little bit of cheese (151 calories)

Or: Four cruskits with marmite and cheese (234 calories)

And: A piece of fruit. Apple (about 90 calories), or Mandarin (37 calories)

Snack: Ten almonds (69 calories)

Dinner: This leaves anywhere from 500-700 calories for dinner. You can make pretty decent meals for that.

Some of the meals I have saved to my Meals list on MyFitnessPal:

Chicken and Chorizo Paella: Chicken, chorizo, garlic, lemon zest, green beans, parsley, rosemary, brown rice, chicken stock (358 calories)

Vegetarian Mexican Pizza: Wholemeal pita bread base, Salsa, four bean mix, cherry tomatoes, red capsicum, red onion, avocado, little bit of cheese (558 calories)

Lamb and CousCous Meatball Wrap: lamb mince, wholemeal couscous, wholemeal wrap, spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas (636 calories)

Chicken and Chickpea Rice Salad: Brown rice, chickpeas, chicken, cherry tomatoes, spinach leaves, pesto (510 calories)

Sweet and Sour Sesame Chicken Burger: Wholemeal hamburger bun, lite sour cream, chicken breast, beetroot slices, carrot slices, liquid honey, sweet soy sauce, side of salad (541 calories)

Italian Steak Salad Stack (see photo below): Beef steak, pumpkin, kumara, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, wholemeal pita bread, pesto, marinade (631 calories)  

Anna's italian steak salad stack

They are all so tasty.

I found exercise I enjoy

Once again, it’s all about what you are able to stick to. I love to dance, so I go to Zumba twice a week at the gym. Once you’ve done a dance a few times and know the moves, it’s much easier to get really into it and go hard. I usually end up exhausted by the end of it, although I have seen my fitness improve! I also enjoy Centergy classes which is a mix of Yoga and Pilates. If you think Yoga is easy, try a class like this. It’s great for strengthening muscles and getting flexible. I am often sore (in a good way) the next day. I also like swimming lengths in an indoor pool, and walking the dog with my family, although it’s a lot harder to find the motivation to do those now that it’s so cold! Now that I’m in a musical that rehearses three times a week, it clashes with a Zumba class and two Centergy classes, but luckily we do little work-outs at rehearsal. I taught my sister three of the Zumba dances I had memorised and we take the whole Mamma Mia cast through them as a work-out, which is fun! I’ve also started doing Zumba in the lounge with my sister and a friend to make up for the missed gym class.

I literally only use my gym membership to go to classes because that’s the only thing I enjoy. If I don’t enjoy it, I find it hard to do it. I know some people see exercise as a necessity and just suck it up and do it even if they don’t like it, but I’m not there yet. I still find it hard to leave the house and actually do it if I know I’m going to hate it (eg. running) so I try to fit in exercise I actually enjoy instead. If I enjoy it, I’m more likely to show up rather than make excuses.

That’s pretty much it

To sum up: I lost 10kg by finding motivation, calorie counting, portion control, being more mindful of what I eat, finding exercise I enjoy, cooking healthy meals, and getting the family on board too. Oh, and I am back into those size 12 dresses and that feels really great!

 

 

How to Audition for a Musical (in 70 simple and not-at-all-excessive steps!)

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clipart-auditions

Yeah so I may go overboard at audition time. Nobody can accuse me of being unprepared!

1)      Decide there’s no way you’re doing another show. You might be busy and besides, this one will be a fun one to go see!

2)      Have a boozy sing-along at a party to one of the songs from the show and realise how much you love these songs.

3)      Suddenly become absolutely desperate to get the role.

4)      Go to the pre-audition meeting.

5)      Be bored because it’s all stuff you already knew.

6)      Be excited nonetheless.

7)      Want to ask director what they mean by a song “in the style of” the show but someone beats you to it.

8)      Still be confused about it after their response.

9)      Realise you need to lose weight in order to be leading lady material.

10)   Zumba. Yoga-Pilates. Calorie-counting.

11)   Watch the movie version of the musical. Twice.

12)   Research the show thoroughly.

13)   Watch YouTube clips of scenes from the stage show.

14)   Listen to the Broadway version of the songs online.

15)   Prepare five different potential audition songs plus the required piece for that character.

16)   Sing all six daily.

17)   Discuss with theatre friends and family the merits and flaws of each.

18)   Ponder what exactly they mean by a song “in the style of” the show.

19)   End up choosing a song that is not at all in the style of the show but is something you love to sing and shows off your range.

20)   Think of what you will say if the director asks why you chose this song. Think of how you can relate it back to the storyline of the character you are going for.

21)   Take vitamins and immunity boosters religiously while drinking lots of water to try desperately not to get sick before the audition.

22)   Pick a dress for the dance workshops in a bright colour so you will stand out.

23)   Go to the dance workshops.

24)   Do dance over and over at home with your sister.

25)   Get brother to give feedback on your dancing.

26)   Teach brother dance.

27)   Realise you’ve lost 8kg. Success!

28)   Get PMS and stare at yourself in the mirror and cry, realising you’re still way off your goal-weight and your damn weight is holding you back from getting the roles you dream of! LIFE IS SO UNFAIR. WHY IS FOOD SO GOOD?

29)   Wake up the next day and realise you were being silly (damn hormones!) and should try your best anyway.

30)   Practise dialogue you found online in multiple accents.

31)   Rehearse with pianist and try to take their feedback on board.

32)   Get all excited about auditions coming up.

33)   Ring theatre friend to find out every detail about how his audition went.

34)   Try on half your wardrobe to find the perfect audition dress.

35)   Invite theatre friend over to help pick a dress.

36)   Ponder whether you should wear a super flattering dress that shows off your weight-loss, or one that is more in the style of the character.

37)   Wear the one you look hot in.

38)   Get excited that you can fit that dress again!

39)   Fill out your audition form on the computer, ensuring you’re really selling yourself.

40)   Pin-curl your hair the night before the audition and sleep in them.

41)   Stay up late because of the anticipation.

42)   Instead of sleeping, iron and lay out your outfit for the morning and get all your sheet music taped together.

43)   Google whether or not lack of sleep affects your singing.

44)   Freak out when you read about how it does, and try to sleep.

45)   Spend ages tossing and turning. Wake up throughout the night.

46)   Wake up in the morning, take out the hair-pins and end up with MASSIVE, wild, crazy curls rather than the soft waves you’d hoped for.

47)   Straighten hair while doing vocal warm-ups.

48)   Carefully plan what you can eat for breakfast that won’t affect your vocals.

49)   Create a no-makeup makeup look and bronze any skin that’s showing.

50)   Freak out because when you try to print your audition form the printer isn’t working and you don’t have time to print it elsewhere. You’ll have to fill it out by hand like some kind of savage! THIS IS UNNEEDED STRESS RIGHT NOW.

51)   Be annoyed that we suddenly have no drink bottles in the entire house.

52)   Sing audition songs on the way there.

53)   Get there and see a beautiful girl about to audition.

54)   Listen to her sing from outside the room. She’s good. Damnit!

55)   “Well that’s it, she’s getting the role, guess I better be happy with ensemble.”

56)   Listen to your sister sing from outside the room. She sounds great!

57)   Start pinning all your hopes and dreams on her getting the role.

58)   Listen to your Dad sing from outside the room. He sounds great!

59)   “Damn him, he puts in nowhere near as much effort to his auditions as I do but he still does so well!”

60)   Oh God, it’s my turn.

61)   Get super nervous.

62)   Sing song. Get really into it. Belt it! Try to remember to move around. Act.

63)   Get so nervous for big notes at the end that they end up way more lacklustre than usual.

64)   Shake and get pins and needles in your hands.

65)   Sing other song. Get really into it. Try to remember to move round. Act.

66)   Read some dialogue. Be unsure what accent to use so go with British and wonder if it worked.

67)   Be told, “Are you aware that you sung your song in an American accent but read the dialogue in a British accent?”

68)   Laugh. “Oh yeah… that was totally intentional…” Joke around.

69)   Be told by the musical director that it was “a great audition”.

70)   Leave happy with how it turned out and wondering what the hell you are going to do with your time now that you don’t have this to obsess over.

Roast Busters

roast busters

I didn’t think I would need to write a blog post about the Roast Busters because it has been talked about and written about so much that I figured everyone else had it covered just fine and would be able to articulate their concerns more clearly than I could.

I was also mistaken in thinking that none of my friends and acquaintances would think that what those boys did was in any way acceptable…until I went to a birthday dinner last Friday.

The topic of the Roast Busters came up and it started a conversation between myself, a male friend, and a male acquaintance. I felt like I couldn’t get much of a word in, and after a certain comment about the way women dress, I felt so disappointed, appalled and frankly a little upset, that I said, “I can’t be around you right now” and walked away. When I returned, my friend apologised for poor choice of words and said I had misunderstood him (and perhaps I did). Now that I am more sober, and have a little time to put what I was trying to say then into words, I’ll respond to some of the ideas these men expressed. Disclaimer: These are not direct quotes, and I hope I don’t misrepresent them. They are also views I’ve heard expressed by others, but I didn’t think I’d hear them in my circle of friends. My responses are aimed at the ideas expressed in general; I am not speaking directly to the men I mentioned.

  • Their behaviour isn’t the problem; it’s social media that’s the problem.

I wrote about cyber bullying in an assignment for my teaching diploma. The one thing that I got from that research is that it is not the technology that is the problem. Bullies will be bullies in any way they can, and the internet is just another way for them to hurt others. The internet can also be a way to do good, spread awareness, fundraise, etc. The Roast Busters just used this technology to share their views and actions with lots of people, and now they are getting more attention than they bargained for.

In this case, it is very much the boys’ behaviour that is the problem, not the technology. These are boys who have little respect for women. They think it is okay to get women so drunk they agree (or don’t) to let several guys sleep with them, then shame them for it online. Maybe some of these teenage girls really did think it would be “cool” to take part in this, and wilfully consented. But I have to wonder, what 13-17 year old girls would be up for this? How emotionally mature are they? How stable and secure are their lives? How high is their self-esteem?

I read a great article (which I will try find) about a woman who had a very troubled upbringing. Her father openly hated her, and she didn’t get much love or attention from her mother either. When she was thirteen / fourteen, she craved love and attention, and found it online in chat rooms. She told men how young she was and they flirted with her, told her she was beautiful, said that they wanted to be her boyfriend, and asked to meet up. She wrote that they’d all use her for sex and then leave, and she’d be left thinking that they were going to love her and be her boyfriend. She consented to the sex, but was not emotionally mature enough to see what was really going on and was very hurt and upset by the way these men treated her. Her point was that just because a fourteen year old girl is capable of consenting to sex, it doesn’t mean that men, particularly older men in her case, should be free to take advantage of any girl from a bad background who is looking for love and attention in the wrong places. These girls need help and protection, not a “you are 100% responsible for every decision you make” attitude that ignores their upbringing, age, maturity, and vulnerability to being preyed upon by people who don’t give a shit about them.

I like to think I am open minded about sex, and I know that when I was in high school there were fourteen year olds having sex, but for the most part it was with their boyfriends at the time. Two young people who love each other and care about each other having mutually consensual sex. Maybe I am being naïve in my little middle class bubble when I say that if a young teen thought getting “roasted” by several guys – knowing that it would be talked about online, knowing that they do it to many other women – was a good idea, they aren’t emotionally mature enough to be making those kinds of decisions, and that the boys who roasted them are possibly taking advantage. It took me until I was in my early 20’s to have enough self-esteem and self-confidence to be okay with casual sex, and even then I treaded some murky emotional waters where I got attached or felt a bit used. It takes a strong, confident person with high self-esteem and a “who cares what anyone thinks, I’m going to enjoy myself and have some no-strings fun” attitude to take part in consensual, group, casual sex. I personally don’t think many teenage girls are there yet. And if they are, they’d be mature enough to want to have that casual fun with people who respect them as a person, respect their privacy, and want them to have a great time. Not a group of teenage boys who get girls wasted, brag about their conquests online and treat the women like meat. On that note…

  • The statutory rape laws don’t make sense. Lots of teenagers under sixteen have sex with each other consensually.

Of course they do. There are varying levels of maturity among teenagers. When I look at fourteen year olds now, for the most part they look so young to me. They seem like they are still children. Yet I remember feeling grown up and mature at age fourteen. I remember most of my friends dating at that age (and younger, though intermediate boyfriends weren’t all that serious). But just because fourteen year olds date and sometimes have sex, doesn’t mean every single one of them is emotionally mature and capable of handling all the baggage that can surround sex. Not all of them will make great decisions. Not all of them will be strong enough to say “no” if the pressure is put on (by peers, or by someone they are dating). Not all of them are perfect drinkers who know their limits and know not to let others mix their drinks. Not all of them have high self-esteem, respect for themselves, and high standards for themselves. Not all of them come from loving, supportive backgrounds.

Someone doesn’t turn thirteen and suddenly become totally capable of making great choices. They still need protection and guidance, and they need support when people take advantage of them and prey on them. The law exists to stop people, particularly older people, thinking people below sixteen are okay to take advantage of. The law exists because young teens don’t often know what is best for them. It is not designed to stop two fifteen year olds who are in love from having consensual sex, it is designed to help those who feel wronged or hurt by a situation, or taken advantage of, or raped.

The Roast Busters is a very different situation from two teenagers, in a relationship, having some drinks together and having sex. This is a group of guys who think it is cool to get girls drunk, take turns having sex with them, and shame them online… and girls went to the police over it. It’s two very different situations, and to compare them is pointless. I don’t see how anyone can act like it was just a bunch of guys having fun at parties, when some girls were clearly so upset by what happened that they went to the police.

  • Those radio hosts weren’t out of line for asking if the girls involved actually wanted it. The girls probably did want it.

Firstly, no I don’t think it is some radio hosts’ place to suggest that any potential victim of trauma is lying about it. It’s unnecessarily insensitive. At the time, my response to this was that if the girls were happy about the situation, why had there been three complaints to the police? To which the men replied:

  • They probably regretted it the next day so lied and said it was rape.

This is the one I have the biggest problem with. I did a little research on false rape allegations. Data varies, but the general consensus seems to be that the number of women who falsely accuse someone of rape is between 2% and 10% (which is about the same as false allegations of other crimes), however it is likely to be far less than that because, as studies of false reporting in New Zealand found, police can misapply the “no-crime” or “unfounded” criteria. Some officers have fixed views on what a rape victim should look like and how they should behave, and others interpret lack of evidence or a withdrawal of complaint as proof of a false allegation.

Even if we took out all of those variables, and assumed for a minute that it was the higher end of the spectrum – that 10% of women who go to the police and say they are raped are, in fact, lying about it – that would still mean that 9/10 of the women who say they are raped, are telling the truth. That’s a majority. When a woman says that she has been raped, chances are she is telling the truth. So why on earth do people think it is okay to act as if it is the opposite? Why would these friends of mine hear about three women complaining to the police about the same group of teenage boys – boys who “jokingly” refer to themselves as rapists on their Facebook page and write things like “go ahead, tell the police, they can’t un-rape you” – and assume all three of them must be in that very small percent of women who make false claims?

Besides which, how fucked up would you have to be to regret sex so much that you are willing to ruin a guy’s life over it? That you care about your reputation so much that you’d rather a guy went to jail than have to acknowledge that you had group sex? It can happen, particularly in a culture that shames girls for having sex, but it’s just so unlikely a situation that to accuse these girls of doing it seems wildly against the odds.

  • Some girls draw negative attention and disrespect from men by the way they dress. They attract people who will treat them like shit if they dress that way.

Maybe this is true. Maybe douchebag guys do target girls who dress a certain way. But even if this is true, what is the point of saying it in a conversation about Roast Busters? Are you making this statement in order to show how shitty society / some men can be in their disrespect of women? Or are you bringing it up to blame a girl for bringing on bad treatment by not dressing conservatively? I’m guessing the latter. If you bring this up you are implying that there are certain situations where a girl is to blame for negative treatment from men, simply because of how she looks. You are saying there are certain situations where it is okay for men to treat a woman like shit. You are letting men off the hook. You are giving them a pass. You are saying it is okay for them to treat another human being badly, simply because of what they wear. You are telling a woman: It is your fault, you deserve this, and you asked for this, he is allowed to do it because of what you chose to wear. This, in my book, is never okay.

Where do we draw the line? We live in a country where a girl having to cover from head to toe in a burqa is considered over-the-top and oppressive, and a bikini is considered okay. So where is that in-between area where you are dressed in a way that invites disrespect? What is an appropriate “deserving of respect” outfit? It’s just silly. How about, instead of telling women to cover up, you tell men that no matter how a woman is dressed, she is a human being with thoughts and feelings and choices? Why should a woman be faced with the responsibility of picking an outfit that will stop harassment, instead of the harassers being held accountable? Let’s also remember that women get raped in all sorts of outfits, as seen by the “this is what I was wearing” meme. Outfits don’t cause rape, rapists do. When a seven year old girl is raped, nobody dares suggest her clothes may have attracted “disrespect”. Why does this change when a girl becomes a teenager?

Men are not untameable beasts, chained to their animal natures with no control over themselves. If a woman isn’t wearing much, it doesn’t render a man incapable of rational thought. If a man sees a skimpy outfit and decides the woman wearing it is not worth his respect then that says more about him than her. It shows a man who does not think all humans are worthy of respect, and will find excuses to treat someone badly. And he can get away with it because some people will say it was her fault for not covering up.

Yes, there are things women can do to help keep themselves safe. Watch your drinks, don’t get drunk, stay with friends, don’t walk alone, don’t sleep over at a party, etc. While this can be useful information, at the end of the day you can do all this and still get raped. You can do none of this and be raped. Either way, it is not your fault, it is the rapist’s fault. You wouldn’t tell a guy who had been burgled that it was his own fault for not having better locks. You wouldn’t tell a guy who had been mugged that it was his own fault for walking down the street with money in his pocket. In the end, advising someone to be safe is fine, but putting the responsibility of avoiding rape on a woman is not. Let’s remember who are the bad guys here – those who made the decision to disrespect and rape women. Or burgle houses, or mug people. Let’s not victim-blame.

  • The trial by media isn’t fair.

You know what, I agree with this one. Evidence is needed and investigating needs to happen by trained professionals. I’m not ruling out the idea that the boys didn’t commit any crimes, and perhaps for a lot of it were exaggerating their boasts and joking around, but I still don’t think that that possibility warrants victim blaming of the girls who went to the police, or a culture of disbelief and suspicion of them.

I do think this story is one the public needs to know about. It has sparked many amazing discussions, blog posts and the like, and exposed New Zealand’s rape culture. Whether or not the Roast Busters are rapists, it is still good to see New Zealand (for the most part) making it clear to young people that it is not okay to treat women badly. It is not okay to touch a girl when she is (as one of the Roast Buster’s friends described a girl) so wasted she will probably not remember it in the morning. It is not cool to brag online about sleeping with women as if they are not worthy of respect or privacy. Making rape jokes is insensitive and immature. There has been a big out-pouring of support for victims of rape, including a petition for John Key to do more for rape victims. I hope that this will be a lesson for all young people out there in both how they conduct themselves online, and how they treat their fellow human beings.

Why we shouldn’t hate teenage girls

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mean girls 2

Urban Dictionary is a website where regular people give their more colloquial definitions of words, and the definitions voted for by the most people appear at the top. It’s a good place to go when suddenly everyone is saying how Miley is trying to act “ratchet” and you have no idea what they are talking about, but not so good, as I found, when wanting to find out what people think about teenage girls. Urban Dictionary had nothing nice to say, with the following comments getting hundreds of thumbs up:

“The Teenage Girl is possibly the absolute stupidest, most materialistic, and shallow kind of human there is”

“They have nothing resembling independent thought or character”

“The lowest form of human being on the planet. These are often shallow, pathetic creatures, attempting to be unique and special”

“These are usually stupid, unoriginal, shallow, and self-centered creatures. Some teenage girls break the mold and are extremely smart, unique, and rather clever, but these are rare.”

“A shallow, annoying, selfish, pathetic being whose intelligence is nearly sub-human. These creatures typically dress like total sluts”.

To be fair, the entries for “teenage boy” aren’t all that nice either, but much kinder on boys than the page on teen girls. The second highest voted answer, for example, is satire about how teenage boys are “causing all of society’s problems” which implies they aren’t actually that bad. The other answers revolve around teenage boys being immature, horny, perverts. There is nothing like the level of loathing that seems to exist for teenage girls out there. While people on UD joke that teenage boys only like sex, video games, and doing stupid shit… they actually seem to hate teenage girls. Read those comments above again. It’s pure misogyny.

I looked this up because a class today at E.I.T left me quietly fuming.

First, a classmate was told by a professor that he didn’t think she would suit teaching in a girls’ school because she is “too pragmatic.” Let’s break that down. Some synonyms of the word “pragmatic”: rational, logical, realistic, sensible, and reasonable. So, wait, she is too logical to teach girls? In order to suit teaching at a girls’ school, should one then be irrational, illogical, unrealistic, senseless and unreasonable? Doesn’t sound like great skills for a teacher. Something tells me the professor was instead implying that teenage girls are illogical, and so a logical teacher wouldn’t want to teach them. That couldn’t possibly be right, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he means “dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.” I still don’t get the problem here. Won’t teenage girls benefit from a hands-on approach to teaching?

Another classmate jumped in and said she was also told she would suit teaching boys better. A third smirked and mused, “I wonder who he thinks would suit a girls’ school?” which is where I said, “Me. I’d love to teach in a girls’ school.”

Why? Because people are still having these conversations! People are writing off teenage girls and wanting nothing to do with educating them when they could have the far superior males.

Not only this, but I attended an all girls’ school and believe I received a great education there.

In social studies, I learnt about fundamentalist religions, poverty cycles, prison systems, and more. This instilled in me a sense of social justice, and a high regard for seeking the truth and solving problems. In English, along with reading wonderful texts about acceptance and equality in different cultures (such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Kiss the Dust), I also studied advertising and how the media can manipulate you into buying their product. What I learnt in that unit amazed me, and developed my critical thinking skills. In Drama I experienced stepping into someone else’s shoes and bringing their world to life. I believe I became a more empathetic, tolerant person at that school. They encouraged critical thinking, creativity, and speaking my mind.

Of course, I am not saying that none of this can happen at a boys’ or co-ed school, but that all girls’ schools can be wonderful places for learning to occur too, and I believe teachers there are invaluable.

The second round of hate on female students came when a guest speaker was talking about bullying. A classmate brought up the subtle bullying that can happen amongst girls that can have a lasting effect. Examples given ranged from exclusion to petty things like teasing girls for their clothes or hair choices. Another classmate mentioned that their four year old daughter came home from kindergarten having been teased about her legs.

All of this definitely happens, and it’s sad and should be addressed, no doubt about it.

What left me fuming were the casual comments that followed by my classmates. These boiled down to “girls suck” and “girls are so mean” and “girls are so petty. Guys just have a punch up then move on, girls are more insidious.” I think this is over-simplifying things for one, and making light of male on male bullying.

Saying boys’ fights are somehow better than girls because they “have a punch up then get over it” is not only making violence seem like a better alternative than speaking your mind, but also downplaying the negative effects on boys who are bullied. We have a very high youth suicide rate in New Zealand, and young boys are more likely to commit suicide than girls. In America, there have been instances of teenage boys who were bullied bringing guns to school. Boys can be just as negatively affected by being bullied as girls, and yes, they can be bullied simply for being smaller than the bully or odd in some way (or for no discernable reason at all!) So to act like girls are more horrible as a gender because they laugh at a girl’s outfit, rather than punching her in the face for no reason, is just crazy to me. Bullying is bad no matter the gender and no matter how the attack plays out.

We have to remember that these behaviours don’t exist in a vacuum. Teenagers are the products of the society they grow up in and the ways in which they are socialised. A teenage boy may appear to “get over it” more quickly or not hold a grudge, because he has been taught his whole life that it isn’t manly to be upset. A girl may hold a grudge or get upset over something “small” like a comment on her outfit because she has been raised in a society that tells her being pretty is one of the most important things about you, and you have to look a certain way to fit in.

Girls may seem pettier in the way they bully each other about appearances for the same reason. We are raised in a culture that bombards us with images of perfect women. We grow up watching television shows in which women are under-represented, and those that are seen are either perfect looking or playing a character treated badly for their looks. There are tons of shows with fat or ugly male actors, often dating hot women, but rarely the other way around. Even great comedic actresses like Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson create comedy through fat jokes. It is rare to see fat or less than attractive looking people in the media treated simply as another human being without their looks being mentioned. When it is, I recommend the show to everyone (Orange is the New Black!). Girls read magazines filled with thin, white, beautiful women and tips on how to be beautiful like them. We are raised to compete with each other for male attention, while boys are more likely to compete in other ways – sporting, achievements, and income.

Negative stereotypes about women are everywhere. Girls are crazy! Girls are irrational and over-emotional! Girls talk too much and shop too much! Girls love drama! Girls are illogical! Girls see these stereotypes played out in the media, then any time a girl does something to fit these stereotypes, they use her behaviour to justify the existence of the stereotype. Gross.

All of this can potentially lead teenage girls to want to either distance themselves from other women, or to passively accept the stereotypes as true and own it.

Those who distance themselves from other women are unintentionally being sexist against their own gender. That’s really sad! Girls who say things like, “I prefer hanging with guys because it is less drama”. Or “I’m not like other girls” is a common sight amongst teens on the net. Boys are just great and women are awful, amirite? Lucky I’m a special snowflake who is one of the guys and not one of them! See Lois Griffin in Family Guy, when she rolls her eyes and says, “Ugh, this is why I don’t befriend other women.”

Probably more harmful behaviour is when teenage girls just accept that being “crazy” or “bitchy” is the norm for women, and so it’s totally acceptable for them to be mean to others. They may post things online like: “Yeah I’m a bitch, get over it!” or share the Marilyn Monroe Quote: “if you can’t handle me at my worst you don’t deserve me at my best”, as if that justifies bad behaviour. They might also try and impress boys or break stereotypes by acting “random” or “weird”. I know when I was thirteen some of my friends and I went through a stage of wearing jester hats and/or pyjamas out in public. We thought it was silly, and fun, and wanted people to know we didn’t care what they thought, when really I think we liked the idea of being thought of as odd. This behaviour is looked on with scorn by haters of teenage girls. Why can’t teenage girls just be our definition of normal and act in a perfectly regular way at all times and draw no attention to themselves ever and be quiet and unseen? /sarcasm.

Of course, some teen girls are lucky enough not to be affected by the media’s obsession with looks and the negative stereotypes about women. They don’t feel any need for much validation from others, care more about their own achievements than what they look like, and don’t feel the need to scrutinise other women’s actions and appearances. Contrary to what society will have you believe, this is more common than you think.

My experience in an all girls’ school wasn’t sitting around all day bitching about other women, pretending to be friends with people then talking shit about them as soon as they walked away, and talking about clothes, shoes, and boys. Yes, this happened some of the time, just like men gossip some of the time (I work in a police station bar and overhear many a chat!) But for the most part, my friend circle was a smart bunch who loved to joke around. We had a lot of laughs together, serious chats together, and played games at lunch time like four square. We organised treasure hunts and Secret Santas and adventures. We talked about our school subjects. We joined groups like the student council, the choir, or sports teams. We were supportive of each other in hard times, and most of us are still friends (or at least friendly) to this day. Were there ever any problems? Of course, but that’s life. Not everybody stays happy and content in one friend group forever.

Many of my high school friends have grown up into great, friendly, fun, people who have graduated university and / or are doing cool things with their lives. This wouldn’t be possible if all our teachers had simply written us off as silly, stupid, bitches.

Women need great role models to teach them that they are worth more than their looks, that they can achieve anything they want if they work hard for it, and that they shouldn’t listen to the negative stereotypes or play into them. They need people teaching them how to treat each other with respect and kindness and to stick together in a world that is, frankly, hostile towards them. They need someone to teach them that their personal lives and choices are their own damn business and nobody else’s and to keep any judgemental thoughts in their heads. They need someone to encourage them and inspire them, rather than look down on them.

Teaching girls is something I can’t wait to do because I care about women and their futures, and so it makes me sad when good teachers turn their nose up at all girls’ schools or teenage girls in general. Overall I had a great experience at an all girls’ school, and hope myself and others like me can give a similar experience to teenage girls today.

That’s what makes you Beautiful

When I wake up in the morning I am a mess. If I’m lucky I might have taken off my make-up, or have none on in the first place, in which case I will probably look like I am dying. If I left it on I will likely have grey smudges or a full on punched-in-the-face-effect. My hair is probably greasy and all over the show because I am a washing machine in the sheets (not even sexual), and I often wake up with my fringe sticking up straight in the air like a feather. Oh, and I have bright turquoise pyjamas and mismatching socks.

I am currently sporting this look as I write this. It’s pretty hot.

Now, I think it is safe to say that this is not how I prefer to look if I will be seen by other people. I personally feel a lot more pretty and presentable when I have showered, blow dried my fringe straight, and put on a pretty dress and tights. I feel comfortable going out in public without make-up on, but still prefer to put mascara, bronzer and eye-liner on. If I know I am going to a birthday or somewhere where photos will be taken, I like to have a full face of make-up on. Which is basically the addition of foundation mixed with moisturiser, blush, powder, eye-shadow and lipstick to that mix. It ends up looking something like this:

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I wear make-up for me. I wear it because it can be fun and creative. I don’t do it because I feel pressured to by anyone. I don’t do it because it is expected of me. I don’t do it to impress men.  I mean, my boyfriend certainly doesn’t require or prefer it.

In fact, once, my Mum told me  I looked like a grease ball because I was wearing a severely crumpled dress and hadn’t washed my hair, and I asked Matt what he thought. He put his arms out for a hug and said I looked beautiful. I nawwwwred all over the place. He is either crazy or lying to get brownie points. Just kidding, (kind of). He said that he likes that I can feel comfortable enough around him to show my un-made-up self. I once turned up at his house in pyjamas and slippers and a hoodie because I was too lazy and cold to get changed. He loved that shit. Mum was horrified.

While I am glad I don’t have to worry about scaring him off with my make-up-less face, I also don’t feel judged by him for wearing make-up, and get compliments then too. While he says he personally prefers the casual jeans and t-shirt look, he still thinks I am pretty in a dress (which is lucky, because I don’t wear jeans often). It’s a happy medium where I can be lazy with my appearance and he likes it, or dress how I prefer to dress and he likes it. Yay for being myself!

Anyway, I think I’m vain. Not vain by the usual definition where you have an overly inflated sense of your own beauty, but vain in that I like to look my best self. I want to wear flattering clothes and do my hair and make-up nicely. If photos are being taken, you bet your balls I’m going to fix up my fringe, suck in my stomach, and make sure the photo isn’t being taken from below. Why would anyone take photos from below? Below-photos equals chubbiest double-chin face ever.

Anyway, I get really annoyed when pop culture touts the “natural” no-makeup, no plastic surgery look as being superior to a made-up look. Here is a sampling of song lyrics:

Don’t need make-up,
To cover up,
Being the way that you are is enough,

-         What makes you Beautiful, One Direction

One of a kind, living in a world gone plastic

Baby you’re so classic

 -         Classic, MKTO

Baby you the whole package, plus you pay your taxes
And you keep it real while them other stay plastic

-         Nothin’ On You, B.O.B

But she wears short skirts, I wear T-shirts

She wears high heels, I wear sneakers

-         You Belong with Me, Taylor Swift.

Her hair, her hair
Falls perfectly without her trying

-         Just the way you are, Bruno Mars

Oh hey One D, I know I don’t need make-up to cover up, but I like make-up and everything I do isn’t to impress a dude. Also I find it a bit disturbing that in that song you say, “You don’t know you’re beautiful… that’s what makes you beautiful.” Oh, cause, God forbid a girl has high self-esteem and loves the way she looks. If you know you’re beautiful then you must be an up-yourself bitch who isn’t worth dating! Bring on the girls with no self-worth who think they’re ugly! /sarcasm.

Oh hey MKTO and B.O.B, yeah plastic surgery is just the worst. I mean, sure, girls are bombarded with images of perfect women their whole lives, are judged on their appearances from a young age, and men go on about their love for curves and boobs… but only people who are born with perfect genetics are okay. Anyone with saggy, wonky or flat boobs who feels like they would like their body more if they improved said boobs, ew, they can just fuck right off. Girls with big, wonky noses who get bullied for it their whole life and who get dismissed by men all the time over it? Tough luck sister, suck it up, because if you get a nose job you’re a fake bitch and these girls who were lucky enough to be born the way men like them are far superior. /sarcasm.

Oh hey T-Swift, yeah girls who wear high heels and short skirts don’t deserve the guy because, ew, skank, and he totally belongs with you. T-shirts and sneakers are far superior than traditionally feminine clothes. /sarcasm. 

Oh hey Bruno Mars, yeah girls who roll out of bed looking perfect without any effort whatsoever are the best and if her hair didn’t fall perfectly without her trying and she had to curl, straighten or put product in it that’d be just the worst. /sarcasm. Okay this one isn’t so bad, but it still ties into the point I am going to make now.

Why do some guys think they are doing us all such a favour by telling us not to wear make-up, and not get surgery? I think that the guys who say this are just creating another standard for women to meet. The “born perfect” girl.

Like, oh hey I don’t like make-up, plastic surgery, or putting effort into your appearance, but at the same time I don’t like irregular or flat boobs, faces that naturally aren’t that pretty, pimples or scars (that could be covered by make-up) irregular features like big noses, and greasy, unkempt hair. All I want is a girl who naturally looks hot without doing anything and I will judge everyone else harshly, or say they are trying too hard or are fake, bimbo, Barbies.

Sometimes I think guys who say they hate make-up, or prefer when women don’t wear it are thinking about poorly applied make-up, or obvious make-up like this:

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They probably aren’t thinking about the more natural look most of us go for, like this (right):

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In fact, I’m willing to bet that most of the time men are admiring a woman who isn’t wearing make-up, she has natural make-up on like the woman above. The amount of times I’ve seen celebrities “without make-up” in magazines or on the internet, I can tell they have foundation, mascara, and often light blusher and lip balm on. Make-up, when applied well, you barely notice it unless you’re looking for it.

Besides, what’s so bad about working with what you have and improving it in a way that makes you feel more beautiful? Men shave their faces and try out different hairstyles and outfits to improve their appearance, what’s so bad about women wearing make up for the same reason?

Sure, some women change their appearance in order to find luck in love. There’s nothing wrong with that! As long as it is their choice and makes them feel good about themselves.

You could accept that you’ve got what you’ve got, change nothing, and hope for the best, but unless you are born conventionally attractive, you might find that the amount of guys who find you attractive is less than if you were to do yourself up. It’s a hard truth. People find certain things more attractive than others in general, and attraction is important in a relationship; if you don’t want to kiss and have sex with your partner, then you might as well be friends. I’m not saying turning yourself into a completely different person is necessary in order to be found attractive, just that if you aren’t born naturally pretty, there’s nothing wrong with wearing make-up and flattering clothes in order to widen your dating pool. Of course, in a perfect world appearances wouldn’t matter one bit and everyone would be attracted purely to personalities, but unfortunately that’s not the world we live in. So why judge a woman for trying to look her best? For some, this may be simply dying their grey hairs while sticking to t-shirts and jeans. For others, they may feel hot in a mini dress with bleached hair. And some may genuinely love the way they look without make-up, dye, or any hair-removal – and that’s awesome too. 

Here are some Extreme Makeover before and after pictures. If more men hit on them after their makeovers, would that be such a bad thing? Something tells me the same dudes who say, “I hate when women wear make-up” or go on about liking a more natural look would find the made-over woman more attractive too!

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I feel sorry for women and girls today. You have all this pressure on you to look good, but only naturally good. They prefer you natural, but not too natural – don’t go crazy now and stop shaving your legs and armpits! Don’t let your nails and hair grow to crazy lengths! No mono-brows – pluck that shit! If you go grey in your 20’s, dye over it please! 

Here’s an idea for these dudes– butt out. Don’t assume everything a woman does is to please a man. Don’t assume a woman with cleavage or a short skirt must be doing it for you. Don’t assume your opinion on make-up, hair, and her body is welcome. Don’t assume you are doing a girl a favour by telling her not to wear make-up. If you think that saying you prefer her bare face makes you a sweet, respectful guy, then I hope you are also fine with her natural body hair, including grey hairs and bushy eyebrows. If you aren’t, then think about what you are saying: “I like you natural in some ways, but fake in others.” Let her be herself and do what she wants with her body. If she wants your opinion, she will ask for it.

And for the ladies – don’t listen to One Direction telling you that it’s beautiful to not think you’re beautiful. Having self-esteem is great. Looking at yourself in the mirror and saying, “yeah, I’d tap that!” is great. Trying out new looks with clothes and make-up that make you feel pretty is great. Or if that isn’t your thing and you prefer no make-up and jeans, that’s great too. Do whatever the hell you want and do it for you.

An Unofficial Guide to Online Dating by Someone who Hates It.

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bad date

Note – this is guest written by a friend of mine as a follow up to “We’re Not All Desperate Weirdos”. Thanks friend! And enjoy.

Once upon a time there was a girl who decided to step out into the big wide world of online dating. After many trials, tribulations, and just plain terrible experiences, she decided to put together some advice for future adventurers following her heroic steps. This is not all inclusive and there are tons of helpful guides out there that are less influenced by bad experiences than mine should you want more detail!

(advicemayormaynotbebasedontruelifeevents).

Do not tlk like dis. U r typing, therz no reazon 2 not no hw 2 spel.

Do not use pre-written messages, put some actual effort into it! Read his/her page and find something on there to talk about. The earlier you show your personality the better, so if you feel like joking around a little – do!

Do not just send emoticons, same reason as above… effort people! Include some words.

Do not proposition tons of strangers for sex / sexual things unless they specifically say that is what they are asking for on their page. No I don’t want to see a picture of your dick, HungGuy37.

Do not ignore their prerequisites. If they say “nobody over 40” or “no messages from men please” or “no smokers” and you are one of those things, please do not try anyway.

Do not make your user name something silly like “nawtyguy69” or “lookin4love”. Does this help you find what you’re looking for at all? I’m going to say no.

Should you make it through the terrible spelling and shallow douchebags and find someone you think it is okay to meet, here is my advice for you:

Do not exclaim loudly, “have you had any luck on NZDating so far?” in a crowded cafe the first time you meet someone. This will make him or her feel uncomfortable and does not need to be shouted to the world.

Do not use people just to make your ex jealous. This is cruel and unnecessary.

After you use someone to make your ex jealous do not steal $10 for a taxi home. Seriously dude? You still owe me my money.

Do not tell me that we would be well suited, except you don’t want to date a larger girl because the last one you had sex with left bruises… I think you may have been doing it wrong.

Do not suggest meeting for the first time in a dimly-lit, isolated carpark. It’s very creepy and sets an uncomfortable tone to the rest of the evening…

If you only just met me a couple of hours ago do not try and move my hand closer to your junk. I know what you’re doing and no, that’s not going to happen in the back of a movie theatre. At least not on the first date…

On the first date after watching a movie, do not expect me to sleep with you. Just because you suffered through Kristen Stewart (that was hell for both of us) doesn’t mean I owe you access to my lady bits. And seriously, don’t sulk and kick me out because I said no! Be a grown up! Pressuring me and sulking is the opposite of a turn on.

Do not tell me, “you’re larger than my ideal girl, but I still find you attractive…” That’s not a compliment! Oh really, you’re surprised that somehow you still find me attractive?? That’s because I am you twat. How would you like it if I said “hey, your penis is smaller than my ideal man’s but it’s still pretty cool.” No. No one would say that to you.

If someone ends things with you, do not go to a party at their neighbour’s house and park your very distinctive car outside your ex’s house for a whole night so that it looks like you are stalking them.

Oops, that one might have been me…

So in conclusion… I don’t think dating is for me.

If you have any uncomfortable and/or hilarious dating stories contact me on 0800 single4eva. You bring the wine, I’ll bring the cats.

We’re not all Desperate Weirdos

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So, I met a pretty perfect guy. 

Maybe not perfect for you. Your perfect guy might have huge muscles, a rugby jersey, and a collection of antique teaspoons he secretly gets excited over. Or maybe your perfect guy is so thin he looks ill but he eats a lot of junk food and never gains weight, loves reminiscing about his childhood and buying matching appliances. 

The guy I met isn’t perfect for me because he ticks a bunch of boxes (although I have always had a thing for stubble) but because I can be 100% myself around him. How many people can you say that about? 

I get pretty close to 100% myself around my family. They’ve seen the bad, the good, and most importantly the ridiculously silly. However there are definitely some things about yourself you don’t want your family to know. I think that’s pretty healthy and normal. I’m sure you’ve left out some of the details when your parents called you up from another city and asked what you got up to on the weekend: 

What you say: “Oh I just had a few drinks with my flatmates, went to town, danced, got a taxi home – good night, yeah… bit hungover now, though, heh…”

What happened: “I got wasted, walked to town alone, ignoring all the texts from my friends at the party because I was too drunk to read my phone, convinced strangers to buy me shots then started just taking drinks from people’s hands because I was too drunk to care, vomited in the bar, including on my shoes, got kicked out of bar for trying to dance on the bar, told a random dude he had “a beautiful soul like sunshine”, walked half an hour to said random dude’s house with my shoes in my hand, put on a silly hat I found in his room and asked him to call me Harold then said “shhhh Steve”, even though his name wasn’t Steve, when he told me that was weird, got sleepy during sex then decided it was a good time to leave, vomited on my way home and woke up covered in bruises… heh yeah… good night.” 

Disclaimer for family members reading: This is a work of fiction, I promise. But it could have happened. 

Anyway, my close friends sit more on the “can tell full details about drunken and sexual exploits” end of the spectrum, but less on the “can go full 100% silly dork” scale. Maybe 75% dork but I tend to compose myself a little more around them. 

Family members sit at 100% on the fart and burp scale. 

Friends are more like… if I do it it’s an accident and I have to say “pardon” or “hah, sorry” and even though it shouldn’t be awkward because literally every single person farts,  sometimes they happen when you aren’t expecting it and you get laughed at or called gross.

So I guess I’ve made three scales for determining how much I can be myself around someone:

1)      How much I am willing to share with them about my life, knowing they won’t judge me or feel weirded out by the information.

2)      How silly I can be around them.

3)      How comfortable I feel exposing them to bodily functions. 

You may have a different set of criteria for yourself. Maybe you know you can be yourself around someone when you can tell them all about your secret love of Miley Cyrus songs. Maybe it’s when you can cry in front of them. Perhaps when you can stop putting on some sort of defense or act and can just relax and behave how you want to. I’m sure for some of you hiding your farts as best you can is you being 100% yourself. Maybe that’s just who you are. Me, personally, I think it’s normal and as long as you aren’t stinking out the bedroom or being inconsiderate it’s just a part of life and we can laugh about it and move on. 

Okay so back to the guy and where he sits on the scale. 

1)      I feel 100% comfortable telling him about myself and my past and he is incredibly non-judgmental. Anything goes. Even if we disagree with each other’s views on things, he still makes an effort to understand my perspective, or why I did what I did. He doesn’t think less of me for any of the decisions I’ve made or the things I enjoy.

2)      I go full dork. I mean any weird facial I feel like pulling, any crazy little dance I feel like doing at any inappropriate time and any stupid voice or accent I feel like putting on. If I feel like bouncing up and down next to him in time with him brushing his teeth, stopping when he stops, knocking into him while he brushes and making it quite difficult for him to keep the toothbrush steady in his hand… he rolls with it and laughs. If I get up at the end of Ice Age 3 and start doing an overly enthusiastic “Open the Door, Get on the Floor, Everybody Walk the Dinosaur” dance, he loves that shit. If I make “peow peow” gun noises all the time he shoots me back. If a wiggle my butt and sing a little song I wrote where the lyrics are only “butt butt butt butt butt butt butt butt” he laughs or sings along. It’s like the sillier I get, the happier he is, because he’s really silly too. It’s like two dorks colliding and I don’t mean that in a sexual way… But also in a sexual way.

3)      We fart in front of each other all the time. And often find it funny. He is also jealous of my burps. At first I was really nervous about the farting thing because of a dude I used to date who was disgusted by women farting and left me feeling really embarrassed if it happened, say in my sleep. So on one of the first nights I stayed over with this new guy, I got the courage to say, “Ummm what would you do if I farted in my sleep?” He gave the best reply I could possibly hope for, which was grinning at me and saying, “If you fart in front of me then all bets are off and I’m going to stop holding them in around you and fart all the time!” we discussed this and decided we were both cool with farts and want to jump ahead to that part of the relationship where we can just do it without feeling weird. And now we’re there! And it’s alternatively hilarious or a non-issue.

Okay so I didn’t write this just to gush about having a boyfriend I can be myself around.

I’m actually writing this because of where we met and the issue it poses whenever people ask about us.

You see, I picked him from a catalogue of eligible bachelors…which is just a fancy way of saying I found him on a dating site.

I signed up when I lived in Wellington. A friend and I were talking about how it seemed like none of the guys our age wanted girlfriends, and at least online people would be upfront about wanting a relationship, or casual fun, or whatever it is they wanted. We also found that the club scene wasn’t right for meeting people as you don’t get a chance to get to know anyone, everyone is drunk, and with nothing to go on but looks, all the super-hot, thin girls would get approached before us every time. Fair enough, they don’t know how awesome we are and they’re not going to find out here. 

We worried that only weird people would be on the site, but then thought, “Well, we’re sane, intelligent, funny girls who aren’t butt-ugly, have pulled normal guys and had successful relationships in the “real world” and we’re considering it… maybe there will be people like us”. One night we had a few drinks and browsed through profiles. Most of them weren’t appealing to me. Either the photos weren’t great, or the ads were full of terrible spelling and grammar coupled with nothing interesting to say:

“I duno wot 2 rite lol wel I like havn beers wit da boys hu dusnt hahaha but im reali sensitive and want a gurl to treat like a princess. No fat chix tho lol no offens.”

Nobody was really selling themselves. I met up with one person, but it didn’t work out. My friend met up with a few whom she didn’t click with or who turned out to be not the greatest people. In the end we concluded that it wasn’t for us after all and I disabled my account. 

Except every now and then I’d get some sort of newsletter email from the site. At first I just deleted them because it wasn’t too often, however eventually I decided to make sure I was properly deleted. I went to the site, and random profiles get featured on the front page each day from your area. I was living in Napier now. 

There on the front page was a picture of a cute guy. Curious, I click on his profile. Decent grammar and spelling! Interesting interests! HE SAYS HE LIKES GOING TO THE LIBRARY. I am sold. I send him some rambling message about my day and despite my profile being inactive, and so being able to see nothing about me, the message is interesting enough to pique his curiosity and he replies. We chat. He explains that he is on there because he doesn’t drink and so doesn’t go clubbing, and works with all dudes so he doesn’t find many opportunities to meet women. 

We arrange to meet up for dinner. He introduces himself and then goes to get something from his car. I text my friend, “He’s cuter in person!” After the initial awkwardness of “ahh we are two strangers out for dinner” we become comfortable around each other really quickly. He’s funny! He thinks I’m funny! We’re having intelligent conversations about all sorts of things! He’s sane and not at all socially awkward and totally my type of guy. We discover mutual interests: We both love British comedy. We both want to live in a house with secret passages and lofts. We both don’t believe in God. We both occasionally think we want children, then see a child and think, “nope! Not for me, no thanks! I’ll just get pets.” We both want to go to Japan one day. 

Three dates later and we’re all happy and shit and he asks me to be his girlfriend and here we are almost six months later being 100% ourselves and having fun times. Sure, it’s early days, but it’s pretty sweet. 

But it’s always awkward when people ask how you met.

It shouldn’t be awkward. We live in an internet era. Four-year-olds are using tablets and smart phones. Everything is on the internet. But online dating has a bad rep. People assume if you’re on there that there is something wrong with you that stops you being able to find someone in the real world. That you’re hideous, or awkward, or creepy. Or worse, that you’re “desperate”. You should be able to find people the “normal way.” 

My experience has been that it is becoming a lot more common, especially in bigger cities with student populations. I know five different women around my age who have made a profile and met people, some with success, some without. They are normal, intelligent, attractive women who have had success offline. I know, shocking! They never batted an eye and openly talked about using the site with me, though maybe they didn’t tell everyone. 

When I used the site I was the opposite of desperate. After a couple of years of being single and hating it, I’d moved on to a “single and loving it” stage. I’d told my friends I didn’t want a boyfriend because I didn’t want to give up being able to do whatever I want, when I wanted. I said I’d only commit to a relationship if they were really amazing, because otherwise it wasn’t worth giving up my single status. My mum told me I was too picky. When the online dating idea came about, it seemed like a bit of fun – browsing through profiles, going on dates – something different that may lead to something great, or maybe just a good story. 

But because of the “desperate” or “loser” assumptions, I always feel the need to justify my use of a dating site to people, and my boyfriend’s use of it too: “Oh he was on there because he doesn’t drink or party and he doesn’t work with any women so he doesn’t get many opportunities to meet new women” (see above). Or even to justify him: “He’s amazing! He’s a really funny, smart, normal guy. He studied this, and then he decided to go into this trade because he didn’t want to freelance, and he likes these things…” While all of this is true, why is it necessary? I shouldn’t have to justify that he’s awesome and “not like the rest” because of what I assume others will assume. 

Newsflash: Sometimes awesome, intelligent, sane dorks who are totally capable of meeting people in real life in other circumstances just want another option for meeting people. 

I’d love to never talk about it and let people see how great he is regardless of where we met, but it seems like almost everyone asks the question. I used to just say, “Friend of a friend” to avoid talking about it, because people always seem to want to talk about it. Some try and make me feel less uncomfortable by saying, “I know a couple who met online and they’re married now! Lots of people are doing it nowadays…”as if I need reassuring that it’s not so weird. As if I am admitting to something shameful and they need to make me feel better about it by letting me know I’m not alone…or that they don’t assume what I assume other people assume. So many assumptions! 

The worst was when a family friend asked where we met and I said, “Friend of a friend” and it turned out my Mum had already told them the truth, so I got caught in the lie. I then got the “you don’t need to lie about it!” reassurance which made me really embarrassed, then they started asking questions about “how it all works” and I felt flustered and walked out. 

I talked to my boyfriend about it and he said he genuinely doesn’t care what anyone thinks and he just tells everyone the truth. He owns it. So I’m trying to do the same… but it seems doing so is just going to lead to more and more awkward conversations. 

When someone was enthusiastically asking me about my boyfriend recently, they asked where we met and I told them. They just said, “online?!” yeah. “Like on a dating site?” yeah. Then, looking a little awkward promptly changed the subject completely. 

This has all made me realise… isn’t it awfully risky to ask someone where they met their significant other? Couldn’t that be a potentially personal question? What if they’d met at a strip club where she’d been the stripper? Or met in an orgy? What if she’d stolen her friend’s boyfriend and it was a touchy subject in her friend group? What if they’d met at an AA meeting you didn’t know they attended? What if they’d met at an event for fat women and the men who are into bigger girls?

Unless you’re prepared to be 100% non-judgmental and cool about it, I’d recommend not asking. 

Also, if you’re single and don’t want to be, give online dating a try. The more regular, awesome people like you who use it, the better it will be for everyone and the fewer stigmas there will be attached to it. If you’re worried about being recognised – who cares? The people who see you on there are on the site for the same reason you are. I saw profiles of people I knew in real life and didn’t even click on them. I just didn’t care. Own it. You might meet someone you can go full dork with!

All girls are crazy, amirite?!

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ImageWho is the perfect girlfriend?

If you’re a misogynist who wants a live in house-keeper and sex-slave rather than an equal, your list would likely include:

  • Cooks and cleans (so I never have to lift a finger and she can replace my mother)
  • Daily blowjobs (but never reciprocating because her pleasure is not important)
  • Always in the mood for sex (exactly how I like it, no turning her on necessary)
  • Never nags (because expecting me to do anything helpful, keep my word or act like an adult is unreasonable)
  • Perfect body, perfect face (but I can look however I want)
  • Always sweet and demure (never gets angry or fights back when I treat her like shit)
  • Doesn’t diet (drinks beer, eats burgers, but is never allowed to gain weight)
  • Is one of the boys (likes sports and other things I enjoy because “girly” interests hold no value and I don’t want her to have her own life outside of me) 
  • Isn’t clingy (I only see her on my terms, not considering her wants and needs, and really only when I want something)
  • Isn’t jealous (doesn’t complain when I flirt with / touch / send sexual messages to other girls and just acts cool with it)
  • Doesn’t talk a lot (I have no interest in anything you think or feel and just tune out)

Okay so I haven’t met many people who expect or want their girlfriends to tick all those sexist boxes. But when expressions like “crazy ex” and “don’t put your dick in crazy” and “stage five clinger” are bandied about, it certainly feels like there is a lot of pressure to be laidback, cool, and almost disinterested when it comes to relationships. Women are often expected to hide their feelings, because if they let them show then they risk being accused of being “psycho”, “needy”, “whiny”, “nagging” or “crazy”.

I’ve definitely felt the pressure not to be jealous in past relationships. “Oh that attractive girl who I know has a crush on you is giving you massages and sitting on your lap? Yeah, I’m totally cool with that, why wouldn’t I be? I trust you.”

Trust is sometimes thrown back in our faces if we admit we’re jealous: “If you really trusted me then I should be able to flirt with other people and have female friends sleep in my bed and have play fights with girls who have expressed interest in me and let them cuddle me. You know I won’t cheat on you, so everything I do should be fine.” If you complain your feelings are treated as though they are wrong and that it is you that needs to change your behaviour.

Note: Your feelings are never wrong. Your partner may not understand them, or agree with the reasons behind them, but you are perfectly entitled to have them. It is how you go about expressing these feelings that are important.

Concerns need to be discussed so that a middle ground can be met and boundaries can be made.

There have certainly been times where I’ve tried to avoid doing anything that I know a guy might use as ammo to call me crazy. I’ll wait for him to text me first. If he doesn’t seem interested in texting me I won’t push it. If I am jealous of his female friends, I won’t bring it up and act like I’m not jealous at all. If I’m feeling insecure about my body I won’t bring it up. If I wish he’d spend more time with me I won’t bring it up. If small things he does is really bugging me I won’t bring it up.

Why was I going out of my way to hide any negative feelings I had? Why was I so worried about being the perfect girlfriend?

A lot of it is learning from past mistakes.

After being dumped by a guy I loved in high school, I was a mess, because we were on different pages. He was ready to move on and, obviously, I wasn’t. It was very difficult for me to go from being in a relationship to being friends. He got with someone else three days after breaking up with me. It was all over his Bebo page (yes, back in the days of Bebo!) – his friends mentioning her, saying how cute they were. It was as if I went from being the most important person in someone’s life, to being nobody. I loved someone who didn’t love me back. Anyone who has been there knows how much that sucks.

So now, I’ve learnt that you simply cannot stay friends. You need a break. You need to move on and this won’t happen if you’re being “friends” and they’re out getting with other people. Don’t see them, call them, text them, email them, or look at their Facebook.

But back then, I didn’t filter my emotions. I told him every thought that was in my head about it. I told him I was upset. I told him I was hurt. I told him I couldn’t believe he’d moved on so quickly and how it was insulting that he’d prefer someone stupid like her to me – how shit must I be if you’d prefer her? This is such a blow to my delicate self-esteem! Bleh.

I was being honest. Naturally, this all came across as bitter and pathetic and some of it definitely was. But nobody teaches you how to act when you’re heartbroken for the first time. Nobody says, “Don’t say that, you’re going to annoy him and you’re not doing yourself any favours.” I cringe when I look back on all the things I said and wish I could take it back.

Later, we got to a point where I had moved on and we were talking again. He mentioned in passing something about his friends referring to me as the “crazy ex”.

This really stung. I wasn’t crazy. I was perfectly sane. The relationship itself was healthy and normal and laidback and fun. I didn’t stop him seeing his friends and I tried to get along with his female friends. I didn’t demand things from him that he didn’t want to give or make him spend more time with me than he wanted to. Any problems we had we talked about them maturely. I didn’t have mood swings. We didn’t have screaming matches. Our fights were few, silly and over quickly. Sure, I wasn’t as mature as I am now, but I was trying my best.

It seemed like every good thing about me was erased and all boiled down to a stereotype. My emotions weren’t valid – they were used to make me seem nuts. I wasn’t a heartbroken teen trying to deal with losing love for the first time and unsure how to cope; I was crazy. I had shown my emotions as they came to me; I was crazy.

Why is it that some guys are so quick to label a woman as crazy?

I think a lot of it is simply not wanting to deal with someone else’s emotions. Instead of trying to understand, reassure, or talk it out, they’re baffled that it’s happening in the first place. Part of it is confirmation bias: You’ve been told all your life that girls are crazy drama queens. You’ve seen it in the movies. You’ve heard your friends talk about their crazy exes. And here is your girlfriend yelling at you for not texting her all day– she’s just proving that it’s true! They are crazy! It’s easy to roll your eyes and not take any responsibility for another person’s emotions and reactions if you’ve been raised to expect them and put them down for it.

Can a woman overreact? Sure. So can a man. But remember that not everybody will view things the same way, and just because something doesn’t bother you, doesn’t mean everybody else has to be okay with it too. What might seem like an over-reaction to you could be seen as completely normal and justified to another. You might have no problem with leaving dishes all over the place, but it doesn’t mean everybody else is crazy for not liking it.

When it comes to arguments, what might seem like a blow-up over nothing could have been slowly building up for a long, long time, small thing on top of small thing grinding away and suddenly you’re being screamed at just for not changing the toilet roll!

The solution is, as always, communication. And that involves listening and trying to understand where they’re coming from. Don’t accuse someone of “nagging”. Ask (in a non-accusatory, non-confrontational tone) what you can do to make things better and why they feel the way they do. Don’t stereotype. Don’t assume. Calmly talk it out. And if you can’t, take a breather and have some space from each other. If only I’d done this five years ago instead of letting everything out when I was feeling upset!

Being the perfect partner (regardless of gender) isn’t possible. The old adage is true: nobody’s perfect. But being a great partner isn’t about never showing emotions and always being laidback – it’s about talking things out before it gets to boiling point, and listening and trying to understand each other’s point of view. It’s about not labelling the other person, or using their actions to stereotype them. It’s about setting boundaries, being firm with them, and if the other person keeps trying to cross them knowing they’re not the person for you. It’s knowing when to say something and when to let it go. It’s having respect for each other’s feelings. It’s wanting to make each other happy, not expecting them to simply be there to make you happy. It’s being good friends who have sex, basically.

Don’t feel pressured to pretend you’re totally cool with everything that happens in life and relationships. Your opinions and feelings are important and valid as long as they’re handled maturely. If you’re with someone who makes you feel worse when you feel bad, ditch them. Life is too short to devote a lot of time to someone who calls you crazy.

Unless you’re currently reading this from within a strait-jacket in a very soft-walled room, in which case you probably have some issues you need to work out before getting into a relationship. Ha! 

“It’s just Facebook”

“It’s just Facebook, it doesn’t mean anything.”

I hate when people say this.

When I was in my first year of university and living in a hostel with mainly strangers, I was, I now see, suffering from social anxiety. Not so bad that I couldn’t function in society, but it meant that I made very few friends that year and was nervous a lot. My head bombarded me with negative thoughts constantly, especially assumptions about how others perceived me. I cared far too much what other people thought. If I said “hey” to someone in a friendly tone, and they didn’t sound friendly when they said hi back, I instantly thought they didn’t like me and felt uncomfortable around them thereafter. I was too nervous to approach anyone; even people I’d already spoken to many times before. I’d spend ages working up the courage to approach them and worrying that they didn’t like me or that I was going to say something wrong. I never really felt like I fit in. People would show up in other people’s rooms unexpectedly to say hi and hang out, and when I did this I always got the vibe (whether imagined or not) that I was annoying them. I spent a lot of time in my room with the door closed. In my hostel end of year book, in the section on me, the person who filled it out wrote “who?” next to “Nickname.” Ouch. Although someone also wrote “sweetness” in the “Known For” bit which was nice.

At the start of that year I realised I was living on the same floor as a guy I knew from my home city. I told him on the first day in the hostel that I was too shy to approach people and was relying on him to introduce us to people, and then once that was over with I would chat away happily. I doubt many people would think I was shy at all once I got talking – I’m very bubbly and chatty. But it was that initial contact that terrified me.

Anyway, this guy was like a safe haven for me. He already knew me, we got along, and though he probably didn’t know how I felt, he was very helpful at making me feel less lonely. I’d hang out in his room a lot and just chat. We were both in long distance relationships at the time (probably another reason I didn’t make many friends – I was travelling home most weekends) and so it was nice to have someone to relate to with that.

I felt like he was a good friend, and though we sort of lost touch after that first year, we were Facebook friends, and when I saw him in the street we’d stop and hug and chat.

However, sometime last year I thought to tell him something and went onto his Facebook page to chat to him, only to realise he’d deleted me as a friend. Or had he? I thought maybe I was remembering things wrong and we’d never been Facebook friends in the first place. So I added him again. He never added me back. “Okay,” I thought, “Maybe he just doesn’t go on Facebook”. But then I saw he hadn’t altered his privacy settings and I could see all his updates. He’d been using Facebook a lot, had seen my friend request, and declined it.

Why did this hurt my feelings so much? When I saw this, I thought a whole bunch of things: Have I done something to make him not like me? Has someone said something negative about me to him? Was it a one-sided friendship all along and did he not actually like me at all? Had I imagined that we were friends and he secretly thought otherwise?

The thing is a lot of people would say that who you are friends with on Facebook is meaningless. Perhaps for some people it is. But while having someone as a Facebook friend doesn’t necessarily mean you’re friends with them in real life, un-friending someone, or not accepting their friend request, is deliberately showing that you are not interested in having that person talking to you or seeing what’s going on in your life. It’s basically a way of saying “I’m not interested in knowing you.”

There are some exceptions, sure, where you might not accept a request of your boss or grandparent because, while you like them in real life, you don’t want them seeing all your drunken photos and watching you swear like a sailor in your updates. But I know for me personally, I will only deny a friend request if I a) dislike someone or find them annoying and b) barely know them. Friends from primary school who I haven’t seen since then? Sure, why not! Friend of my sister who I’ve met once but never spoken to and will probably never see again? No.

A friend and I were discussing this, and we both agreed that to us personally, we’d only delete someone as a friend if we genuinely didn’t think they’d care or be offended. I could probably safely unfriend some of the people I went to primary school with, who I was barely friends with then, and who I never see now. They probably wouldn’t even notice. But someone who I was once really close friends with and spent a lot of time with in high school might be upset to know that I’ve decided I don’t want to know them anymore.

And that’s what it is. It’s actively deciding that this person isn’t worth having around, even online. If you really see your Facebook friends list as meaningless, unimportant, and nothing to do with the real world, then why do you find it necessary to still pick and choose who you want on it, unfriending who you don’t? People don’t just arbitrarily delete friends at random; they do it for a reason.

Yes, people drift apart and are no longer close friends. I have people on my friends list who I was very close with in high school, and who I no longer hang out with now. Time and distance has meant we haven’t kept in touch. Sometimes when you go a long time without seeing someone, it feels forced to keep trying to make it work and keep in touch. But this doesn’t mean I never want to speak to them again, or have no interest in their life. If I saw them in the street I’d say hi and ask how they’re going. While I’m not going to ask them to hang out, I still remember our friendship fondly and think well of them.

Perhaps because this is how I think of my Facebook friends, I find it hard to agree when people say “it’s just Facebook”. Facebook is huge. Just under half the population use it, a lot of whom use it daily. It is one of the ways we keep in touch, talk, and show each other what we’re up to. It is how we display our lives to each other.

People joke that relationships aren’t official until they’re “Facebook official”. Some roll their eyes at this. I’ve had ex-boyfriends say, “Why do we have to put it on Facebook? We’re together, that should be enough.” I’ve heard similar things from many different people. If you want to keep your private life private, that’s up to you. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to show your Facebook friends that you are in a relationship. It means other people won’t mistakenly think you are single and hit on you. It means you aren’t ashamed to have people knowing who you are with. In my opinion, the people who piss and moan about the “need” to “show off” your relationship on Facebook have tended to be the ones who didn’t want to be in a relationship in the first place. If you’re not embarrassed to be in a relationship, what exactly is the harm in having it known to your Facebook friends? If someone wants to explain this one to me, please do.

Another form of unfriending is the “I’m angry and to prove how much I hate you I’m going to delete you – that’ll show you how little I care!” deleting.

Even I’ve been guilty of this one. To be fair, it probably did fall under the “if they probably won’t care that you’ve deleted them then it’s okay” umbrella. The end of my first year social anxiety story ends up with me finding a little group of stay-up-laters who all seemed to share my sense of humour and movie tastes. I hung out with most if not all of them, every day. Seemed like a happy ending! I sat with them for meals, had heart to hearts with some of them, and got drunk with them. After a while, I felt like I was part of the group.

Then came second year Uni. They all went flatting together, and I flatted 10 minutes away. The friendship got one-sided fast. I always visited them, they never visited me. If I wanted to see them, I had to go to them. Because they were all in the same building, their friendship was effortless – nobody needed to invite each other anywhere, they could just start drinking or watching a movie and everyone was already there. Everybody except me. Nobody thought to invite me. Nobody texted me to see how I was.

In third year Uni I was much better off. I shook the social anxiety and became very positive, confident and happy. I managed to genuinely stop caring what people thought. I realised that I had some friends who always made the effort to invite me over and texted me first. Friends who invited me to parties or just to hang out and who sincerely seemed to care how I was doing. It made me frustrated and hurt that I’d put so much time and energy into a one-sided friendship with people who didn’t seem to notice when I wasn’t around for months at a time. In a cathartic moment I deleted them off Facebook to signify the end of fake friendships, or something like that. I’ve run into them since then and they have been nothing but friendly to me so I kind of feel bad about the impulsive un-friend, but again, I doubt they really care.

Another time I kissed a guy in town, added him on Facebook, and we talked a little. We arranged to meet up in town again, and twice, when the time came, he didn’t reply or avoided me. So naturally I let that one go and deleted him on Facebook. I barely knew him, and I thought he was being a dick for standing me up instead of just saying he wasn’t interested, so I un-friended him. No point keeping people like that around. Funnily enough he texted me a few days ago at 3am, about a year later, saying sorry for being a dick. Wonder where that came from?

I think there’s a difference between unfriending someone because they aren’t in your life and/or you don’t want them to be, and the people who delete their friends every time they get mad at them, only to re-add them when they make up, then repeat cycle. I had a friend who would delete people all the time in this way, and I found it funny because she obviously thought they would care, when they all just rolled their eyes at her for being childish. So how do you draw the line? Can you ever feel justified in unfriending someone without being deemed childish? I guess if you use Facebook a lot, put up photos, tell people what you’ve got going on, it’s your choice who you feel comfortable knowing so much about you, and if you’re not friends with someone in real life, then you shouldn’t feel obligated to be their Facebook friend. I think that it becomes childish when you’re doing it all the time and often to people who are still very firmly planted in your life or friendship circle.

Okay this has become more diary-entry than blog and I apologise for that. I will try to summarise: It isn’t “just Facebook” and you know it. It isn’t just words on a screen. There is a person with thoughts and feelings on the other side of that screen, and while what they get upset about may not be what you get upset about, doesn’t mean their feelings are invalid. Just because those feelings are over a silly social media site, doesn’t make it okay to dismiss them. What we do online, particularly on Facebook, often reflects how we see the world, and others, in real life.

Oh and anyone who knew me in first year and hasn’t seen me since, I think I’m a pretty different person now. Definitely less anxious and awkward, less drunk when I drink, less eager to please, more likely to realise if I’m actually being annoying or intruding, and well… happier. More fun. If you’ve stuck with me on Facebook and are kind enough to read my ramblings, I’d love for you to say hi. And for that small group who have had two-sided friendships with me since first year, I love you to pieces.

When Yes doesn’t mean Yes

In health classes in school we were always taught that “no means no”. If you say no, and they force themselves on you anyway, then that is rape. Simple right? But it’s not that simple and often grey areas are simply ignored or not talked about.

Can it be rape if you’re saying yes?

Example one: A woman is having sex with her boyfriend who she loves, and it’s really hurting her badly. She is crying, she is uncomfortable, she is not showing any signs of enjoyment or participation… but she loves her boyfriend and wants to please him and so when he asks if he should continue she says yes, even though she means no. How can he continue when I’m crying and in pain? Why does he want to continue when I’m clearly not enjoying it? To this woman, emotionally, it feels like rape, but she won’t call it that because she said yes – she gave him permission – and besides, this is her boyfriend who she loves, he wouldn’t rape her, right?

People will have two views on this scenario. One camp will say “Why would he continue to have sex with her when she’s in pain – even though she’s said yes? Can he really be that blind to her body language? Can he really be so selfish as to ignore her tears and pain in order to get laid?”

The other will say, “If she was in pain, she shouldn’t have said yes, plain and simple.”

Example two: A woman is staying over at a guy’s house that she has consensually slept with several times before and who she really likes. She tells him she doesn’t want to sleep with him because she has a headache, she’s tired, and she’s not in the mood. He starts off trying to get her in the mood, kissing her neck, touching her chest, but she tells him to cut it out. He stops, they continue cuddling but five minutes later he’s giving it another go. She tells him to stop, he stops, then tries again in another five minutes. He repeats this several times and she grows more and more frustrated with him. Eventually he stops trying to get her in the mood and instead just asks for sex, over and over. She keeps saying no and saying she wants to sleep. He won’t stop bugging her and pleading with her. Oh yeah, pal, your desperate pleas for sex are so turning me on right now. She knows he won’t stop bugging her until she gives in so even though she doesn’t want to… she says yes and goes through the motions to “get it over with” so he’ll leave her alone. She feels used and upset, but it’s not rape right, because she said yes?

Two camps again. The first will say, “Pressuring someone and bugging someone to do something they don’t want to do until they give in and say yes to get you to leave them alone is wrong, plain and simple.”

The second will say, “She should have kept saying no or left the room – by saying yes she was allowing it to happen and it’s not rape.”

I don’t think either woman in these scenarios would call the guy a rapist because they have placed the blame squarely on their own shoulders: “I shouldn’t have said yes”.

Some women say yes when they want to be saying no for several reasons. They might be in shock and can’t bring themselves to say anything. They might be hoping that their partner will notice that they are lying there, upset, and will stop on their own. They might be really drunk. They might feel like they can’t say no to their boyfriend because they are in love with them. They might feel trapped, like there’s no way to stop the hassling and pressure but to give in. Whatever the reason, I don’t think it’s fair to place the entire burden and blame on the woman as some people often do. Those people in camp two who see it as black and white: “Well she should have said no” – why aren’t they saying, “That man shouldn’t have put her in that position where she needs to?”

Women, particularly young women, need to be taught to be more assertive and to walk away when they feel pressured. But more importantly, men need to be taught about the grey areas of consent. It’s different from person to person, but I would argue that a yes isn’t a yes if it isn’t enthusiastic. You know what someone who is interested in fucking you looks like: They are into it. Their body language shows this. They are pulling you towards them or telling you they want you, or initiating contact. Someone who is enthusiastically consenting is not lying there crying or in pain. Someone enthusiastically consenting doesn’t have to be begged for sex, or pressured into it. They aren’t so drunk they’re basically asleep.

Here’s where more grey areas come in: Sometimes, in normal, healthy relationships, one partner or the other has sex when they’re not really in the mood, because they want to please their partner and feel like sex is an important part of the relationship. “Sure”, they think, “I’m not really in the mood, but I’ll try my best to do it anyway”. This is different. This is not someone being hassled or bugged into sex; this is someone making the decision to have sex despite not being really in the mood themselves. This is someone happily choosing to do something to please their partner because they want to make them happy too, not someone who feels obligated to do it, or is miserable about doing it.

Something I want to be more strongly emphasised in sex education in schools is this: Just because he is your boyfriend (or she is your girlfriend) doesn’t mean they take ownership of your body. Being in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean they get to use your body however they want, whenever they want. Just because you have slept with someone before, doesn’t mean you are obligated to sleep with them again – even if you are in a relationship. Even if you are in love. Even if you’ve never said no to them before. Even if you’ve slept with a lot of people before them.

And in reverse: Just because you are in a relationship with someone, doesn’t mean they are always consenting and willing to have sex with you. Just because they have said yes before, doesn’t mean it’s always a yes. Just because they have done something with an ex, doesn’t mean they are obligated to do it with you. Gentle persuasion is fine if you’ve slept with them before and respect each other’s boundaries – there’s nothing wrong with trying to get your partner in the mood – but you have to read the signals. You should be able to tell if it’s a “Not now, no, get away from me” or an “Hmm I wasn’t in the mood before but now…” and if you can’t tell, or aren’t that great at reading body language then ask. A simple, “is this okay?” will do. Better to feel a bit awkward asking than to risk doing something that someone isn’t into and having them too scared or awkward to say no. And if they’re just lying there looking upset / bored take the hint. Do you really want to fuck someone who isn’t wanting to fuck you? Think about that before you put the pressure on.

Here’s where a few guys, in my experience, have pulled the slut line. A direct quote from a former male friend:

“other girls ruin it for u if u believe that…which is fine to believe but the sluts who are like hmmm na actually theyre right, i do want sex ruin it for the other girls coz we generalize girls like oh she changed her mind after, why wont the other girl?”

Hey, how about the obvious:Because all women aren’t the same? Because maybe the “sluts” you’re comparing girls to a) were also pressured into saying yes or b) started off not being in the mood then became in the mood. Not so hard to grasp. Women aren’t always in the mood. There is often a point where you go from “no thanks” to “okay you’ve turned me on, let’s do this.” This doesn’t mean they were saying no to be a tease, or that all women will eventually be in the mood if you pester them enough. That makes no sense!

This guy deleted me from Facebook after this “hey, maybe don’t pressure girls into sex any more” conversation… so I doubt he’s taken this on board, but if you’re reading… come on dude, I’m not the bad guy here.

I also must add that though I’m mainly mentioning males as the pressuring force, it can obviously go both ways and there are also men out there who have felt pressured into sex and that’s not cool either! Unfortunately people often buy into stereotypes that guys are always sex hungry and why would they possibly not want to do it? This is not only false but also the idea that all men are controlled by their penises above all else is a dangerous idea to perpetuate for both genders sake. It leaves women who are turned down by their boyfriends wondering what’s up and men feeling like if they aren’t having (or wanting) a lot of sex there’s something wrong with them.

Boys and girls, the key is communication. If everyone can be as clear as possible about what they want and don’t want then navigating the grey areas of consent will be easier for everyone. And obviously, if someone’s telling you to back off – listen! Assume everyone means what they are saying!

Keep safe everyone!

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