Married to Feminism? 

I’m watching the Royal Wedding and feeling a bit conflicted. 

Whilst I love a wedding, and all the traditional touches, there are a few parts that, these days, make me feel really uncomfortable. As I’ve got older and my feminist awareness and opinions have grown I’m now looking at everything with a new lens – one of equality. 

Do the traditions allow us to treat the Bride and Groom as equals? As I just heard the words ‘man and wife’ for the umpteenth time, I rolled my eyes and thought ‘fuck this shit!’  

I find myself confused about what I would do if I were planning a wedding today – would I make the same choices as I did 10 years ago?

More and more people are ditching traditions to make weddings more personal. I saw this during my days as a wedding photographer. It’s lovely and it makes your wedding YOUR wedding. I did the same, and at the time I thought my wedding was perfect. I still think that. And yet…. let’s just add that equality lens. 

Starting with the Bride’s entrance – all eyes are on the Bride, she looks beautiful, she feels special, she smiles and takes it all in. She enjoys feeling beautiful and people recognising how lovely she looks. But hang on… 

The Groom doesn’t make that same entrance – he waits at the front, and he sees everyone in advance. This tradition of having the Bride arrive last, builds up an expectation, that the Bride has an extra role – to be seen – to look her best – to make ‘an entrance’. 

We keep our dresses secret so it’s a surprise. Often we do our hair differently than we would ever normally wear it.

As guests, we lap it up. “Doesn’t she look beautiful, what a gorgeous dress.” 

And as a Bride myself, I wanted that – I wanted to look beautiful. The preparation was not just what I’d wear, but weeks of extra attention on looking after my skin, trying to lose weight, getting new make up. Because if all eyes are on me, I must look my best. Because how you look on your wedding day is one of the most important aspects of planning it. We are taught this through experience of attending other weddings. And in life – how women look is always important. 

My husband didn’t do any of that preparation. I doubt he thought much about it all. He got a nice suit and had a hair cut, like he would for any event – he dressed appropriately. He looked nice, but not that different. He looked like the man I spend every day with. He just farted less. Well, we both did – farts are equal too! 

Next is the tradition of the father of the Bride walking her down the aisle. I’ve been to many weddings where it’s mum rather than dad for whatever reason. In fact I nearly did the same. But in the end, I asked my shy, Step-dad to walk me, because I knew it would mean a lot to him to be recognised as my father – which he is. 

So, let’s just check… does anyone escort the groom down the aisle? Of course not, because… I know you can see it coming:
Who gives this woman to this man?”.

OK what the actual fuck?? Why are we still doing this? I did it myself. But now, instead of thinking of it as a gesture to show my dad how much I love him, I’m annoyed that I was ‘given’. Clearly I wasn’t – I made that choice. 

No-one was expected to ‘give’ my husband to me. We just chose to be together. Equally. We chose to be a family. 

And then to the reception and the speeches – probably the most obvious one that many people are already pushing against the traditions. 

Traditionally speeches are by The Men. I’ve always been delighted to see a Bride make a speech, although I didn’t do it myself. I’m still not sure why. 

People now ask a Best Friend, rather than a Best Man, and a Parent of the Bride, rather than always the Father. And yet, I’ve not so far seen a Parent of the Groom take up the equal opportunity. 

And so, even after writing this (I write to help me think) I find myself still conflicted. Is that because I regret decisions I made at my own wedding? Nope – the problem is, despite my strong opinions, if I had to do it all over again, I would do exactly the same again. I’m conflicted because it turns out that my feminism has boundaries. 

And I’m really fucking annoyed with myself for that!!
#feminism #equality #wedding #royalwedding

Do you hate your body, or embrace it?

“At least I can get in size 8 jeans again, even though my fat belly is rolling over the top. Eurgh, I need to get to the gym and sort that out! I used to be so much thinner before I had you.”

That’s a conversation I overheard in a shop changing room – a mother telling her very young daughter how pleased she was that she had lost weight.
Once upon a time I wouldn’t have paid much attention to that conversation. It’s just what women say. I might have rolled my eyes a little at the idea of a size 8 woman complaining she has a ‘fat belly’, but that’s all. 

But just over a year ago I saw a film documentary that had a massive impact on me and made me question so much of what I see around me. Now that film is available to buy or rent and I can’t recommend it enough.


We all know that the media, especially beauty and fashion industries constantly bombard us with an ideal of what we should look like, so that they can sell more products. But do we realise the scale of the impact? 

According to research done by the film makers, 91% of women say they hate their bodies. Even in these amazing times of celebrating women and how far we how come, how much we can do, how equal we are, still we seem to judge so much of our value on how we look. 

‘Embrace’ documents an amazing journey of Taryn Brumfitt, travelling round the world, meeting all sorts of women to understand their feelings about their bodies. And just as importantly how we are talking to our children about our bodies. 

It’s shocking, thought provoking and actually very funny. I massively recommend watching, and potentially sharing with your children. Not just girls – it’s a message for everyone. 

Embrace by Taryn Brumfitt https://itunes.apple.com/gb/movie/embrace/id1190681117

New Year, new pressure?

Perfectly acceptable New Year’s resolutions… 

There is a lot of motivation (pressure?) for us to better ourselves in the new year but I’m opting for the no pressure route. In 2018 I will be what I will be. 

We don’t have to have a 5 year plan, or a 5 week plan. I quite like spontaneity and seeing what happens next.

I don’t have to be ‘My Best Self’ – I’m proud that I’m moderately good at a few things. 

Life is an adventure and sometimes it’s OK to go with the flow, see what comes along, and be flexible enough to cope with an unexpected event.  

  • Sometimes I WANT to change something. 
  • Sometimes I have an idea and go for it. 
  • Sometimes life throws me a curve ball and I NEED to change something.
  • Sometimes I decide to do something and then change my mind. 

And that’s OK. 

If you’re positively motivated by all the ‘change your life’ memes and statements then good for you. Good luck with whatever that change is for you. 

Right now, I don’t have a career dream. There isn’t a burning fitness ambition that I need to fulfil this year. That might change, or it might not. 

If I decide to change something at any point this year, I will change it. If I decide NOT to change anything because actually my unbalanced, unplanned life is pretty fucking fabulous, then I’ll just keep on going, without a plan. 

#resolutionrevolution  #justbe #itsOKtobeOK

‘I’m getting old’ is getting old

I’ve been wondering why people I know who are approaching 30 seem to worry that they they are getting old. Old!! 

Women today have an average life expectancy of reaching our late 80s, yet before we are out of our 20s we already think we’re past our prime, and start to wish we were (or at least could look) younger. 

What the hell are we teaching each other? 

I started thinking about it when my little boy innocently asked me “why do people always want to look younger” after watching a TV advert for women’s skin care. It was a shock because, although I know somewhere deep inside me that it’s ridiculous, it’s also so fucking normal that somewhere along the way I stopped even noticing. 

“Look at that amazing middle-aged woman. I can’t wait until I have those gorgeous expression lines on my face. That’s so sexy.” 

Said no 20-something, ever. 

Even from a very young age I remember the phrase ‘you never ask a woman her age’, and wondering, why? My gran would sing, “Keep young and beautiful, if you want to be loved”. Sigh. And we all know by now that it’s taken decades for celebrities to be allowed to get older, unless they take to the knife or needle or chemicals, to cut and stretch or fill their skin with age-reversing magic. 

When we are children we can’t wait to grow up to be old enough to do whatever our current age restricts (watch the best films, ride the best rollercoasters, drink all the booze). Then we hit about 25 and realise we’re heading towards 30… when apparently, it’s all downhill from here. So there’s a period of about 5 – 7 years where we think we’re in our prime, and then what? Re start trying to stay young, to reverse ‘growing up’. 

Why do we value youth so much, when age means we continue to grow – in knowledge, experience and an understanding of what’s actually important to us?

We only seem to value people getting older when the numbers get much bigger. Then people start telling you their age all the time. “I’m 83 you know!”  They are proud, and we are impressed because they have made it to a ripe old age, and perhaps they are still showing us that they can have enormous fun. 

Let me give you an example, of dancing in public :

  • Age 5 = cute
  • 25 = sexy
  • 35 – 55 = embarrassing
  • 65 – 95 = Go Grandma!!! 

We just love seeing an obvious pensioner mixing it up with the kids at a festival or dancing in the street. They show us that pure joy is what’s important at any age. They also show us that they give no fucks what so ever. 

I’m 44 and apparently I have a life expectancy of 89. I’m not even half way! It is a fact that I am younger than the average person (just) and perhaps in the absolute peak period of my life. 

My body may not be as flexible as it was when I was an 11 year old gymnast, but I no longer care about which of my friends can do the best standing back-flip. I have other things I need my body to do. My tits may not point in the same direction as they did when I was 22, but that’s because they have been a life source for another human. They can point whichever twatting way they want to after that. 

But I tell you what, mentally I’ve never been healthier. I know what’s important to me and what’s not, and that helps me to realise that I’ll never again waste my energy worrying about how many candles there are on my cake each year, unless they start to cause a fire hazard. 

Every age I have been has been my favourite so far. We need to start talking about THAT. We need to help the teenagers, the 20-somethings and people at every number of candles understand that their age right now can be celebrated – just like the kids showing off their age on a birthday badge; just like the woman who is proud of being 83; we have made it through another year. We have learned more, experienced more, grown more as a person. 

I’m still growing, and I don’t mean my waist line (that’s a given). 

In my 20s – I had a ball, drinking and dancing in noisy, smelly, disgusting clubs, making new friends, shopping for shoes and  flirting with boys. (Maybe more than flirting sometimes)

In my 30s – I had a ball, going to pubs where I could get a nicer glass of wine, a seat and good conversation. There was theatre, gigs, and cinema with a solid group of friends and I ‘settled down’, got married and became a mum’. Life was even better. 

In my 40s – I’m having a ball, going to great restaurants, festivals, museums, holidays with my family, afternoon tea with my friends. Life is even better. 

I look back on younger days with massively fond memories, but do I want to go back to smelly clubs with sticky floors, shit wine and questionable men? No, I don’t. Except, if I do want to go, I will go.  I will be one of those ‘old women’ that my 20-something self would have sneered at because they were embarrassing themselves, drinking too much and taking over the dancefloor, and turning ‘our club’ into a grab a granny night’. How dare they?! 

I’ll tell you how dare they…. because I’m learning it now – middle-aged women have learned the best life lesson there is – they have learned about what’s import to worry about and what’s not. That’s what age is wonderful at giving us – a depleting number of fucks to give. It’s really quite liberating!

If we want to go out and get shitfaced on a better class of cocktail, we will. If we want to wear a more sensible heel, we will. And if we want to stay at home watching a box set, and only drinking tea, we fucking well will and we don’t care if that’s ‘boring’. We earned the right to do whatever we want by drinking a decades-worth of cheap, warm cider and alco-pops then staggering home on blister-bleeding feet. 

So I’m not scared of getting older, because experience tells me that life only gets better. And if that experience shows as lines on my face then that’s just fucking dandy. (Marketing people take note – I’ll still buy face cream, but to make my skin feel nice.)

Let it be known that I am 44, and 44 is brilliant. If you’re not there yet, you’ve got a lot to look forward to. Honestly. And if you’re older, please tell me what else I can look forward to. 

Or have I already lost the plot because I’m so old and passed it? 

Unbalanced life lessons

Eight lessons I’ve learned since I became an Unbalanced Woman. 

  1. There’s always more to do – my To Do list will never ever end. So it’s not the end of the world if I let some items stay on that list a while. I really will vaccuum my filthy car ‘one day’. No need to be more specific than that. 
  2. Everyone’s priorities and standards are different – There’s no point judging myself against someone else. I admire the gorgeous mums in the school playground, immaculately dressed and in perfect make-up. I wish I looked like that at 8.30. But I wake up   looking like Medusa with very grumpy curly-snake-hair. So my beauty priority is simply to tame my wild frizz, just enough to avoid scaring young children. Everything else can wait. 
  3. To achieve one thing, you often have to give up something else – for example, for my health needs I have prioritised more rest time, but sacrificed running. Getting back to running is still lounging on my To Do list, diarised that famous ‘One Day’. For now I do it occasionally. VERY occasionally. 
  4. It’s OK to ask for help…  Of course we all know that, but I often feel it’s easier to just do it myself. They might not do it right. Also true. But what if…. they learn and (shock horror) might do it better? 
  5. …It’s even better to give yourself permission to not even do some stuff at all! Yes it would only take a couple of hours to nip to B&Q and buy a new piece of wood to fix that skirting board. But neither I, nor anyone else in this house jumps out of bed on a Saturday shouting “Woohoo, odd jobs day!” And so far there have been no giant mice sneaking in through the hole for a Mouse Party (or if they do they are great at tidying up after themselves, so they are welcome).
  6. If something makes you happy, make time for it – be selfish and let some other shit go. Occasionally having my nails done feels like a treat. Yes I could spend that time cleaning my car or going for a run. But…. I DON’T WANT TO!! 
  7. This is it. This is my life. As the famous phrase goes, no-one lies on their death bed thinking “I wish I’d spent more time at work”. And I know I certainly won’t lie there thinking “I wish my cupboards had been tidier”.
  8. And finally, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that having an Unbalanced Life where I complain that I can’t fit everything in, is actually a wonderful existence, because it means my life is full of things that are important to me – family and friends to love; a job that funds my life and challenges my mind; a house and garden that create great (messy) memories; a million things to do, people to see and choices to be made. 

I may be busy, I may be dizzy, but fuck me, I’m one lucky Unbalanced Woman. 

#HappilyUnbalanced

A biased review

Do you mind if I go a bit off piste today and instead of talking about me and my Unbalanced life, talk about a band that I went to see this weekend? I know that’s unusual. I’m certainly no music reviewer or expert. If I tell you that this band is really rather good and you may want to have a listen, you should know that I am completely, utterly biased.

I’ll tell you why… you see that ginger guitar player on the left…? Well I’ve had him! More than once. In fact, he’s my husband and father of my ginger child.

So here’s the background story. When I met my husband I was already 32 and pretty sure of who I was and who I wanted to be with. Compromises were now unacceptable (little did I know how many compromises you actually have to make when you are married with kids – but that’s another story). I was upfront and laid down two important rules:

  1. I will ALWAYS have a cat. I am crazy cat lady and you’ll have to live with cats forever
  2. I am not cool when it comes to music, I’m a pop monkey, and you will have to live with that too

You see, Ste is pretty cool (by comparison). He plays guitar in a band, all his friends are in bands, or write songs, or at least love listening to ‘proper’ music. They discuss bands I’ve never heard of – how ‘dirty’ the sound of guitars are, and compare the features of hundreds of pedals and amps in depth, while I gaze on remembering how this morning I was dancing round my kitchen to Katy Perry (with my cat) and looking forward to going to see Take That in the summer.

I could pretend to like the same music, and be more cool, but I’m just not. I watch the X factor style TV programmes they slate as commercial shite, and when I sing along to Ed Sheeran on the radio, I don’t even know it’s Ed Sheeran at first, it’s just a song I like. I am the opposite of a musical snob – I actually have no idea what is cool and what is not. I just like what I like. Fuck the judgement.

Anyway, last year, Ste joined a new band with a weird name, ‘Control of the Going’, and a weird sound. They play ‘Psychedelic Rock and Roll’. I had no idea what that was, and at first when I listened to him play I quoted my grandma, and Alan Partridge, “That was just noise.”

Clearly I was not their target audience, and that’s lucky, because it turns out there are a growing crowd of people who do like Psychedelic Rock and Roll – enough for them to start getting radio plays and now a record deal. A chuffing record deal!! They have released their first single today, and start recording their album next week. I may soon be married to an actual Rock Star!

Even better than that for me – because it’s still a bit about me! – now I really like them. I promise I’m not just pretending to because they’re getting a bit of success! You can tell from what I said earlier that I am honest about these things. It turns out that I do actually like psychedelic, dirty guitars when there’s a tune I can sing along to over the top. Gary Barlow could perhaps build that idea into Take That’s next album.

So here’s the shameful plug… Do you fancy having a listen?

Visit Control of the Going on Facebook  or Twitter as @COTG_

You can listen to their new single ‘She’ for free on soundcloud (just click to play) or on Spotify,or you can buy their single on vinyl – because that’s what the kids are doing again these days.

And here’s a review of the single launch – where Ste gets a special mention.

Alright yes, I’m really fucking proud of him. I warned you I was biased. The rest of the band are bloody brilliant too.

Have a listen, like their Facebook page, spread the word if you can, maybe even go and see them when they tour!

Perhaps I’m widening my musical taste and getting slightly more cool than I used to be, (even though I say ‘cool’ which is probably not cool either). At least I will always have a cat or two though.

Being married to a rock star wont change me!

Embrace

If I asked you to describe your body, what’s the first thing you’d think of?

I’ve just been to the cinema to watch a documentary called ‘Embrace’ where people were asked that same question, and their responses were… fat; disgusting; not perfect; I need to lose weight. It was a bit shocking. People of all shapes and sizes all responded in the same way.

Then the film maker, Taryn Brumfitt, points out that almost everyone she asked made a negative comment about the way their body looked, but no-one comments on what their body allows them to do. Her statement is “This body of mine, it’s not an ornament, it’s a vehicle.”

It makes you think doesn’t it?

Our bodies are amazing. They are so clever, and they allow us to get to places, have life’s adventures and perhaps even create new life. How come we take all that for granted but criticise if they are not the ‘perfect shape’ to LOOK at?

embrace1

Now I’m not a person who spends that much time thinking about what I look like. I’m really not that bothered most of the time. Let me give you an example…

I once met a friend of a friend who does cosmetic treatments. Within an hour of meeting her she had focused in on a frown line above my nose (not prompted by me) and told me, “I could easily remove that for you”. If she could have read my mind she would have heard two things: First my desire to twat her square in the face, and second a very sarcastic tone which said, “I’m about three stone over weight love, do you think a care about a little line on my forehead?”

But I just smiled and said, “Oh it doesn’t really bother me”. Now to be fair, she was a lovely lady and she was talking with a very positive intension – she meets women every day who obsess about they way they look and she has a way to make them feel better and more confident. What’s wrong with that?

But, let me be honest, even though I don’t care about that line on my face enough to want to remove it , tit’s still the first thing I notice every time I see a photo of my face. Let me be REALLY honest, even though I’m not bothered enough to diet, I still delete the pictures where I think I look like a total heffer, and share the ones where someone else is standing in front of me and taking focus away from my size.

It seems it’s part of our wiring to care about how we look and how others judge our appearance. Because they do. We do. I do! And now I’m questioning why. If I know it’s wrong, why do I care? Why do I judge others?

The answer, according to Taryn, is everywhere. We all know about the ‘bad’ magazines, and the photo-shopping and the adverts for diets  and beauty products that don’t work. God-damn money making twats, selling the impossible.

embrace3

Yes, of course. But it’s not just ‘them’. She pointed out some of the ways we talk to each-other…

“Oh you’ve lost weight, you look amazing.”

“I daren’t have a cake, I don’t want to get fat.”

“I’ve got to get back to the gym, my thighs are like tree trunks”

Holy fuck. We say this in front of our kids, and then wonder why they start using appearance comments as insults.

The real standout of the film for me was a lady who had been badly injured in a fire and was scarred across her face and body. She received supposedly well-meaning comments that she was lucky to have such a good husband who stayed with her. Which made her question – Is that all I was before? A pretty face?  Was there not more to me than how I looked? She ended with the killer line… “Actually I am pretty awesome.”

I’m not ashamed to say that I cried.

embrace2

Thought-provoking, heart-breaking, hope-inspiring. And a whole lot of fun too. I laughed out loud several times, not least when Taryn visited a surgeon who told her what ‘normal breasts’ look like. She has even better self-restraint than me!

Please, PLEASE find a way to see this film.

Watch the Embrace trailer.


Here’s how you can see Embrace

There are screenings across the UK now. But you wont find this film as a normal cinema listing. It’s an independent, crowd-funded film, being promoted via Demand Films, and Taryn herself is in the UK hosting some of the events. (She is a-may-zing. I heart her.)

The idea is that people like me, who feel passionate about sharing this story with more people, will create demand for more screenings, and host our own events. And hopefully that will create demand for more and more screenings. You see?

Find a screening near you

Or host your own event.

There’s no financial outlay. Demand films help you set everything up at your local cinema and help you promote it to your friends and local community. If enough people buy a ticket the show goes ahead. If not enough tickets are sold, it is cancelled and no money is taken from people’s payment cards.