What’s the point in loving?

Flames to dust, lovers to friends. Why do all good things come to an end?” says Nelly Furtado, one of my many idols. It was a song I sang many times in my youth, not understanding what she meant. Now I’m older and dare I say, wiser, and I have begun to overthink the song.

Love is the strongest and greatest emotion on earth. We crave it, we feel it, we search for it. It motivates us and confuses us.

All love stories start in different ways and in different places, but is usually as follows;

Boy meets girl. They date, get butterflies when they kiss, begin to fall in love. They date until they become in an official relationship. They meet each others friends and parents. They have sex, they have arguments. And unless they’re one of those lucky people that ends up settling with your childhood sweetheart, they break up.

Like the beginnings of a love story, they also end in different ways. It can be an abrupt, passion fuelled argument ending in screaming and punching, or it can end in an awkward conversation sitting across from each other in a silent room.

I started dating around seventeen, but never really found myself attached to the boys I was dating, and I ended things. In my younger years I never really focused on how they would feel about me breaking up with them. It’s one of the luxuries of being the break-upper, not the break-upee.

And then it happened to me. Honestly, I think the pain was more about my ego and pride than my boyfriend breaking up with me. But the one thing that really angered me was that in the beginning of our short lived romance, I didn’t like him. He pursued me, chased me, wooed me. Begged me to go out with him until I finally acquiesced. Our date went surprisingly well, and so did our relationship- until we broke up.

Afterwards, my heart mended and I met another boy, and the process happened again. This was a longer, more fulfilling relationship, but after two years I decided to end it. We’ll chalk it up to ‘personal differences’ as this is a blog post, not a therapist session. I was happy about my decision, he wasn’t, but even after trying again, it just didn’t work.

A year later, at a party, I met another boy. The night was honestly, as cliché as it sounds, magical. Perhaps it was the alcohol, but it was the most romantic beginning. He stayed behind at one of my parties to help me kick out the stragglers that wouldn’t leave at 5am, and we spent the whole night and day just talking. I suddenly realised that I didn’t want to date him. Well, I did, but I didn’t want the future break up that dating would bring. It’s a rather pessimistic idea, I know, but the fact is when you date someone, you either end up with them until death, or you will date until you break up. As nice as boy #3 was, I didn’t see myself walking down the aisle towards him at the age of 18.

So, upon our first meeting, I proposed an idea. What if we just had a wonderful night together, talking and getting to know each other, and never see each other again. That way it would forever be perfect. It would never be tainted by future arguments or betrayal, and whatever happens in our separate lives we could both look back on our one perfect night together. He liked the idea but disagreed, wanting to see me again.

I am not a very strong willed woman, and so it’s safe for you all to assume that yes, we saw each other again after that. A lot. We dated for a while, and it was nice. But guess what? it ended. He was heartbroken, but again, I’d made the right decision. He was moving away and I was studying and it wasn’t right. We stayed friends for a while, but after he moved away he turned into a dick and then we never spoke again. Every time I catch myself thinking about it, I just wish that I’d stuck to my guns and had kept that first night for what it was- perfect. Now, when I think back on that night, every other little detail comes to mind about our subsequent relationship and painful break up.

I renounced dating after that, and after three years of living the charmingly fun yet sometimes lonely single life, I’ve met another boy. Telling me not to overthink it is like telling the sun not to shine; impossible. Already, within the first few weeks of dating, I’m already jumping the gun, wondering what painful mess this new boy is going to bring into my life? Will he cheat on me? Am I going to be heartbroken again? Will I hurt him? Is it… worth it? Again, at the age of 22 I’m not ready to settle down yet, so I know this relationship will end at some point.

But I’m okay with that.

I’m not the type of girl that meets a guy and would marry him right that second. I don’t mind that I’ll date different guys, have different relationships. Because when I finally find the right guy, and end up marrying him, I know that I’ve lived my life, experienced other relationships, but found the best one for myself.

Some girls walk into a store and find their perfect shoes sitting there in front of them. Some girls have to try on a few before. I’m going to try and think of it that way.

As the old saying goes: you gotta kiss a few frogs before you catch a prince.

Anyway, back to the question in hand: what’s the point in loving? There’s a high percentage that my new relationship won’t work out in the long run. (I’m being realistic, not pessimistic guys, jeez.) But I really am fine with that. Friends and partners come and go, and I believe that different people are brought into your life and taken out, but they imprint on your life and leave you changed afterwards. They are in THAT section of your life for a reason, and if they’re not in a different part of your life, that’s fine. The 18 year old version of me and 22 year old version of me are very different, so I doubt my first relationship would’ve worked out for long anyway. We change, we adapt, and grow up, constantly. It makes sense that sometimes, we outgrow people. We’re all on our own journey in life ,and sometimes people walk with you for a while, and sometimes they need to go their own way too.

I don’t mind getting my heart broken again. It will heal, as everything does. And falling in love is worth it, it really is. We can’t walk around in a bubble of plastic wrap to protect ourselves from the world, and we can’t harden our heart to protect it. We have to accept our decisions, accept falling in love and new people, and what will be will be.

All good things may come to an end, but there’s plenty more to come after.

That’s all folks, for another 3AM rambling.

xoxo, Molly.

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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DEBATE AND AN ARGUMENT

A debate is defined as “arguing on a subject, especially in a formal manner.”

Maybe this is true. Maybe a debate is a polite way of arguing. God knows I’ve seen enough religious and political debates to turn into arguments. but there is a difference. A thin line between debating and arguing. That line is respect.

Having a debate with someone should be fun, enlightening, a challenge. An argument is about shouting and hurting the other person, insulting them.

Arguing is simply shouting your point at the other person, refusing to listen to anything else, whereas a debate is a discussion between two people in which different topics are brought up. Both parties listen, and learn during the debate.

I love debates. There’s something about two people getting passionate about a subject- be it beliefs, or simpler, like a TV show or book. You can feel your own enthusiasm and the others persons, and see new things you haven’t before.

I am also very, very good at debating. Whatever argument people throw at me, I find a way to turn it around, give sufficient evidence or reasons why they are wrong. I think it’s one of the reasons I chose English Literature at University. Debating about books combines two of my favourite hobbies, after all.

As stubborn as I am, as good as I am at sticking to my guns, I am not so unwavering that I cannot change my mind. In fact, if someone manages to change my mind on a topic I feel strongly about, fair play to you. I have strong ides and passionate beliefs, so if someone has words of such power to change my mind or even make me think of the subject different, fair play indeed. And it isn’t a weakness.

Back to arguments, if you change your mind or back down, you “lose”. However, in debates, it’s quite the opposite. If someone’s manages to change your opinion slightly, you have enriched your own mind, become more enlightened upon something. You’re not belligerently insisting on the same idea without really deconstructing it, but you’re taking the idea apart, and growing as a person.

As much as I love changing someone else’s mind, getting them to understand my point of view, it’s equally fruitful vice versa. Because it makes you think differently, act differently. It opens a whole new world of interpretation to a subject you thought so surely on.

Is it a weakness is our minds are so malleable? if we change our beliefs on a whim? (that’s what I imagine people will cry)

Well, I give you this: It’s not on a whim. It’s after you’ve exhausted the topic to every inch, its where another person spins it in a new way you haven’t even considered before, which means your ‘belief’ on that subject might not be that strong. We are made of opinions, it’s true- but whose? As a child, do we have strong opinions on things? or do we learn them from our environment? Do we pick up our opinions and beliefs from our parents, our school, our friends? I think so. So none of our opinions are completely original anyway, and changing them simply means your choosing your own ones that you truly believe in, therefore making them stronger. If that makes sense. It’s three AM in the morning, so excuse the rambling.

Where arguments leave you upset, and bitter, with hurtful words running around your head, debates should leave you feeling refreshed, passionate and with a thirst for learning.

It was, in fact, a heated debate that led me to write this article. Me writing is often spontaneous and seems like a chore at times, but after one short debate with a friend, it’s lead to me finally being productive and getting back in touch with another passion- writing.

So, readers, remember this: Debates are supposed to be fun learning experiences. If you feel strongly about something, debate it well. but don’t be afraid to open your mind to another persons opinion. It might change your life, or even yourself.

THE DEPENDENCY ON MAKE-UP AND HOW TO WEAN YOURSELF OFF IT!

I love wearing make-up. There’s something ritualistic on sitting down at my desk, laying everything out, and getting to work. I start with foundation, covering my face and making it smooth and even. I draw on my eyebrows, making them thicker, fuller, even. I put on my blusher and bronzer, layering highlighter on top. I coat my lashes with thick mascara in several coats. I sweep on eyeshadow, draw on eyeliner. I finish off with lipstick or lip gloss, and then I’m done.

Sometimes, it’s a bit rushed. I’m late to work and I have to hurry my routine, frantically caking it all on quickly, not realising that in the morning light whilst commuting to work I look a bit like coco the clown. But when I’m going on a night out, I take my time. Paired with a glass of wine and some female empowerment music (traditionally, Destiny’s Child), I’m having a party all by myself before the actual party begins.

I tell myself, like other girls do, that I wear make-up because I enjoy it, not because I need it. But that would be a lie.

I lived with a girl at university that used to wear a face full of make-up even when she was going to the shops, and I thought how silly it was. Girls at work would wear false eyelashes, fake tan and fake nails. To work! I only ever used a full face of make-up if I was going for a big night out, but after a while, it began to change. I got insecure, and started to feel better when I looked better. It’s the same as wearing nice clothes when you go out, instead of shabby old tracksuits (which yes, I sometimes adorned on very hungover university mornings.)
I took pride in my appearance. I love looking nice, love wearing nice jewellery, nice clothes, and fabulous make-up. But I began to become more and more dependent on always looking nice, on always wearing make-up. And it’s starting to wear a bit thin.

I first realised make-up was becoming an issue in my life when I removed my make-up and I didn’t want to look in the mirror. My natural face didn’t look like me; it felt foreign, hideous.

Let’s be honest for a second: some people do look better with make-up. It covers our imperfections, makes us look healthier, brighter.  I have very fair hair, so my eyebrows and eyelashes are basically invisible. I work a  lot and get little sleep, so I have bags under my eyes, my pale skin needs a bit of blusher to make me look less like death, and my skin has imperfections, as most people. 

I’m a confident girl- when wearing make-up. but without it, I started to feel like a shell. Even when going round to the shops to get some milk I found myself putting on just a bit of make-up, in case I bumped into someone I saw.
The other day I was extremely hungover, and late to work. I had no choice but to wear the bare minimum of make-up, and I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t talk to people as much,  I just wanted to get through the day with my head down. A few people commented on my appearance, wondering if I was tired or ill.

I’ve found myself growing more and more panicked about how terrible I look without make-up, particularly in situations where people have to see it. I’m going on holiday with my friends soon, and they’ll see me without it. When I start dating someone I look nice, but will they still like me without make-up? Would they have entered a relationship with me if I’d gone to the date bare-faced? I think about guys coming up to me on nights out, or people that only see my snapchat and Instagram pictures, and I wonder if they would still approach me if I didn’t have make-up on.

I still love wearing make-up. It’s fun, I can experiment with different colours and styles. I love mixing eyeshadow colours, picking out different lipstick dependent on my mood. I love how shimmery my face is after I put highlighter on. But now I’m beginning to feel guilty, hating the fact that it takes layering on make-up to make me feel better about myself.

The strange thing is, if I never started to wear make-up to begin with, I would still be confident. As a child or young teen, I never worried about make-up. But with the abundance of make-up tutorials on YouTube and facebook nowadays, make-up has become a necessary, essential part of our shopping lists, rather than a luxury. I had a friend who would put aside her small wages on food, make-up and then bills, in that order. She prioritised buying foundation over her rent sometimes. Now I don’t think I’m that far gone, but I never thought I would become the person to hate my face without make-up. I’m so used to wearing make-up that it feels strange without it. It would’ve been so much easier if I never put it on to begin with.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Like all addicts, I have a plan to stop my addiction. (yes, i realise I’m beginning to sound like an alcoholic). Instead of quitting cold turkey, I’m going to slowly wean myself off make-up. I thought I would share my technique on here to help other gals out there reduce the amount of make-up they wear in small, easy steps.

Firstly, prioritise your make-up. What is essential, what items can be dropped one by one.

  1. Starting off I’ll drop the lipstick and gloss. I’ll only use Vaseline to keep my lips smooth.
  2. Eyeshadow is certainly not essential, and so unless it’s a night out, I won’t wear it.
  3. After that, highlighter and bronzer can go.
  4. Blusher is the next off the list.
  5. The next step will be removing foundation from my routine. I can make this step simpler by still using concealer for problem areas (bags under eyes and imperfections)
  6. I will improve my skincare routine and wear moisturiser instead of foundation so my skin still looks healthy.. After I feel more comfortable, I’ll stop using concealer.
  7. After that, I’ll stop using mascara. Luckily I don’t wear false eyelashes, but if you do, the first step is get used to your eyes without eyelashes, and then go from there. You can do it in even smaller segments, like only using one coat, or only on the top lashes. You could also use clear mascara to enhance your natural lashes, but I don’t think I’ll bother with that..
  8. The final, dreaded step, not drawing on my eyebrows. As aforementioned, I’ll probably do this in stages by drawing them in lighter each time. Alternatively, you could semi-permanently tint your eyelashes and eyebrows so it still looks like you have make-up on, but you’re bare faced. I think for the first time I’ll do this, and eventually go back to natural.

Et voila! In gradual steps, you’ve gone back to your natural face! hopefully, friends and colleagues won’t notice the gradual change and so you won’t get bombarded with the tired/ ill comments that people seem to love giving out.

I’ll still wear make-up when I want to, if I feel like it. Like I said, on a night out it’s a very enjoyable part of my night. But when it comes to casual hanging out with my friends, going on holiday, going to work, I’m going to learn to be comfortable in my own skin and not feel pressured to wear make-up.

We are the ones that wear make-up, not the other way round. Let’s keep it that way.

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ULTIMATE REVIEWS: TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES

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“This hobble of being alive is rather serious, don’t you think so?”
― Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles

A line that rather encapsulates the novel, the hobble of being alive is extremely serious for the eponymous heroine Tess D’Urberville. Whilst I would highly recommend reading the book, there is also a fairly good BBC adaptation starring Gemma Arterton, a very young and handsome Eddie Redmayne, and a convincing Hans Matherson as villainous cad Alec D’Urberville.

I have always proclaimed that I detest ‘depressing, grey’ books. They leave me somewhat disheartened about the state of both characters from the novel and the world in which we live in. Yet something about Tess of the D’Urbervilles managed to reject this theory, cementing its place as one of my favourite books. This book review/ analysis strives to explain why this book is so highly recommended by scholars and is considered one of the great classics.

Book Overview:

Beginning in the idyllic countryside of England, the simple country life seems both sweet and dull for the Durbeyfield family, who live a modest life. The discovery that their lineage is derived from the noble D’Urbervilles elates them. Tess is sent off to meet other representatives of their family, and it is here that she meets Alec D’Urberville.

The infamous meeting of Tess and Alec is the beginning of a relationship that would spark debates between readers for years. From the offset, Alec is… dubious. He is more flirtatious than a man should’ve been in the nineteenth century, taking an unhealthy obsession in Tess and her figure. His eyes linger, his hands wander where they shouldn’t, and his actions heavily foreshadow what’s to come later on in the book.

Tess, however is innocent (particularly to the ways of men) and very beautiful, which proves a deadly combination. The other women are jealous of her and bully her. One night, they start to gang up and fight Tess. Alec comes to help her, giving her a ride on his horse. Yet instead of being a gallant hero, he deliberately gets lost in the forest called ‘The Chase’ in order to spend more time with Tess. Eventually, they stop, and Tess falls asleep in the forest while Alec goes to look for help. When he returns, they have sex.

As aforementioned, Hardy sparked one of the greatest debates amongst authors, readers and scholars with a single sex scene- a sex scene, mind you, that is so heavily vague and chaste that you might not even realise what is going on when you read it.
Herein lies the debate; whether they had consensual sex, or whether Tess was raped.

Below is the passage (which has been edited by myself to only include the sections important to this discussion).

“He could see absolutely nothing but a pale nebulousness at his feet, which represented the white muslin figure he had left upon the dead leaves. D’Urberville stooped; and heard a gentle regular breathing. He knelt and bent lower, till her breath warmed his face, and in a moment his cheek was in contact with hers. She was sleeping soundly, and upon her eyelashes there lingered tears.
Darkness and silence ruled everywhere around. But, might some say, where was Tess’s guardian angel? Why it was that upon this beautiful feminine tissue, sensitive as gossamer, and practically blank as snow as yet, there should have been traced such a coarse pattern as it was doomed to receive. As Tess’s own people down in those retreats are never tired of saying among each other in their fatalistic way: “It was to be.” There lay the pity of it.”

Thus ends phase the first (the Maiden) and begins the second phase (Maiden no more) a title which not-so-subtly indicates what the ambiguous scene was actually all about.

Not quite a steamy sex scene, I know. But written in 1891 it was a subject risqué enough as is, and Hardy’s ponderings on religion, fate, and destiny are far more fulfilling than a sex scene, right? Maybe.

I have firmly and always been on one side of the great debate: Tess was most certainly raped. Throughout the book, Alec constantly makes advances, trying to kiss Tess, feed her, touch her, to which she constantly refuses him and pushes him away. She shows no affection or sexual advances towards him, and spurns his. I’m not quite sure what person in this generation thinks having sex with an unconscious woman isn’t rape, but yet there are debates that the sex was consensual. If you have read the book, or read it after this review, please let me know below what side of the great debate you are on.

After the ‘sex scene’, Tess leaves the farm and returns home, discovering she is pregnant. Unfortunately, her child, which Tess names Sorrow, dies. Tess cannot give the child a Christian burial because the child is born out of wedlock. Instead, Sorrow is buried in a little shabby bit of ground with drunkards and beggars, and Tess is left even more of a broken woman.

My great love for Hardy began with this novel when I read the protestations he makes against the vilification of women- especially fallen women, (a term which here means women who have had premarital sex or children out of wedlock.) Tess is shunned by all, even her own family, when her secret is discovered. The fact she had been raped and did not consent is of no matter to her judgmental peers, all that matters is that she has been ‘dirtied’ and ‘tainted’ by Alec, and has fallen from grace. Tess yet again leaves home and goes to work on another farm, where she befriends a couple of women, and meets Angel Clare.

Angel Clare is the son of a reverend, yet despite his father’s wishes of going into a similar career, decides to work on a farm. He is educated, kind-hearted, and loved by all. The three women that work on the farm with Tess are all madly in love with him, yet he falls in love with Tess.
Like all great love stories, theirs is a tragic one.
Tess and Angel fall madly in love, and Angel begins to persuade Tess to marry him- but she refuses, terrified of him finding out about her sordid past. After Angel’s constant pursuing of her, Tess agrees to marry him. Tormented by her secret past, Tess writes a letter, explaining everything, and slips it under Angels door.
One thing we should know by now in literature, is that letters are not reliable. Remember the letter Juliet writes to Romeo, explaining everything, but it gets misplaced and ends up being the cause of both their deaths? Exactly- letters are not reliable.

The letter slides under the carpet,  not received by Angel. They get married. Tess is finally happy, and so are we. Yet this happiness is not to last long as on their wedding night, instead of doing the thing which they were supposed to do *cough, cough, wink, wink*, they instead have a long chat.

Angel tells her that he has a dark secret- he has had sex before with a woman in London. Tess forgives him easily, and is elated at his secret- as she finally now realises she too can unburden herself, and tells Angel her secret of being raped by Alec and their child dying. Instead of forgiving Tess, like she did for him, Angel rejects Tess completely.

Angel turns his back on Tess, telling her he does not recognise the person in front of him, she is changed, different, to him. He decides to leave for Brazil, and asks another woman- who, by the way- is a very close friend of Tess- to go with him.
Abandoned by her husband and once again thrust into a life of despair, Tess moves to another farm. Tess is worked to the bone, heartbroken and on the verge of death from her severe poverty. Tess hears a preacher speak valiantly about morale’s and religion and all of that malarkey.
Just when you think things cannot possibly get any worse, they do.
Who should this man of God be, this preacher? Alec D’urberville, Tess’s rapist.

Alec assures Tess that he has changed, that he feels guilty about what he did and that he has converted now to Christianity and God. For a while, it almost seems like he means it, but seeing Tess again renews Alec’s fascination with her, and the obsession to possess her begins.

Alec stalks Tess mercilessly, tormenting her about her husband abandoning her, telling her that Angel is never coming back. Tess’s mother falls ill, her father dies, and the family is evicted from her home. She writes to Angel asking for help, but receives nothing. Alec promises to help her if she becomes his.

Meanwhile, Angel falls ill in Brazil. If I’m perfectly honest, I didn’t enjoy this part of the book because in my opinion, Angel is just as much of a villain as Alec is. Well, maybe not on the same level, but he’s still a spineless coward who pretends to be completely enlightened and forward-thinking yet still believes in backwards beliefs that women who have sex before marriage are evil and tainted. I skim over his part every time I read it, but the jist is that Angel comes to his senses and tries to find Tess.

Miraculously, in the days without maps or iPhone, Angel finds Tess, only to find that she is living with Alec D’Urberville. Tess finally gets some of her spirit back, blaming Angel for abandoning her, with no other choice but to accept becoming Alec’s. Tess tells Angel it is too late, she has become Alec’s and he has to leave.

Devastated, Angel leaves- again, not really proving himself to be a worthy husband, but the heart wants what the heart wants, and Tess realises she still loves him madly.

Going upstairs, Tess finds Alec and stabs him to death. She leaves to find Angel as Alec’s body is discovered by a landlady, and the police start searching for Tess.
Angel and Tess go on the run and get to Stonehenge when Tess has a nap on the stones- really odd, I know, but maybe murdering is tiring.

tess 2

The police catch up to them, Tess is arrested, and soon after, Tess is executed. The book ends with Angel and Tess’s sister watching and then walking off.

Character Analysis:

The contrast between Angel and Alec proves there is some similarity between them. Most people see Alec as the embodiment of evil, whereas Angel is the romantic hero. However, there are several dimensions to both characters.

Angel comes across as a fairly progressive, noble young man. He seems to represent Tess’s happy ending, though his rejection of her reveals him as a hypocrite, unable to see past his fathers evangelical beliefs of female sexuality.

Alec, however detestable, seems to have some kind of character progression. While I am in no way excusing his actions, he acknowledges the harm he has caused Tess and in his own way tries to make up for it by offering her a deal of providing for her and her family in return for sexual companionship, a relationship comparable to prostitution and/or marriage (at the time in which the novel was written.)
Alec takes on the role of husband when Angel abandons her. While Alec is undoubtedly an immoral character, it just goes to show Hardy’s complex characterisation; no man is wholly good or evil, but an amalgamation of both. It is this depth of character that make books more elaborate, more intricate than films. Instead of the tropes we receive in Hollywood films; the noble hero on a quest, the villain hell-bent on domination, we get a complex mishmash.

Final Thoughts:

Not a very happy book. In fact, possibly one of the most depressing books I have ever read, yet it’s amazing. The brilliance of the novel lies within its tragedy- not simply for emotional value, but to further a political agenda on the vindication of women.

Hardy creates a lovable character; Tess is naïve, innocent, kind, almost perfect. But he thrusts her into situations that ruin her spirit, break her, and create sympathy for her. This is integral as it shows to the audience at the time that ‘fallen women’ are not creatures to be shunned from society, but normal women who have been exposed to tragedy not of their own making.
I cannot say as to whether Hardy’s writing changed the minds of many 19th century people. What I do know is that writing this novel was a profound step in literature for shedding light upon archaic ideologies regarding female sexuality. Hardy recognised the importance of the human soul, the strength of someone’s character, and within his book, valued it over their history. For that alone the book should get a high rating. However the combination of the plot, the fantastic description of English countryside’s, the characterisation of the people in the books and great discussion of philosophy all together makes a fantastic read.

The juxtaposition of Tess’s innocence with Alec’s twisted villainy, Angel’s conflicted moral’s of right and wrong and Tess’s plight as a young woman show three very different characters as products of the social ideologies of the time. Their intertwined fates provide a interesting yet tragic journey in a narrative that proves itself one of the many must-read books of all time.

Rating:
I would rate the book an eight out of ten.
Explanation for the missing two points; firstly, I’ve mentioned that I hate depressing books. And this book ripped my heart to shreds. While that is what good literature does, I don’t think I could read this book again and again regularly because I think I’d lose all my faith in humanity.
Secondly, considering the book involves plotlines delving into noble lineage, rape, murder and great romance, in some places, the book is rather slow to read. Perhaps that is coming from my 21st century opinion, considering the action-packed films of today I’m accustomed to, but a little more dramatics to lift the book would be good. I would’ve liked a nice fight scene- maybe some kind of duel- between Alec and Angel, to replace some of the longer, more winding passages.

Then again, a Hardy novel without philosophical ramblings

and long descriptions of countryside would hardly be a Hardy novel.
Please read the book, or at least add it to your reading list, and come back! If you’ve read the book already, let me know what you thought of it below!

CHRISTMAS PRESENT LIST / IDEAS

Ah, Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year… and for some, the most stressful. If you’re one of those people frantically typing ‘What to get my sister/father/girlfriend’ for Christmas, this list of ideas will be good for you.

While being a personal Christmas shopper would be an ideal job, alas I’m limited to giving ideas online and for free. Obviously I can’t give an incredibly personal approach, but there are a ton of ideas that might inspire you.

For girls:

  • Clothing.
    You will need to have some knowledge of what fashion style the person you are buying for is, but there is a plethora of choices when it comes to clothing. DO they need more party dresses, or more pyjamas to lounge around in? Do they enjoy novelty, funny socks, or perhaps a racy lingerie set? The possibilities are endless!
  • Jewellery.
    Again, so many choices. Rings, necklaces, bracelets, fancy watches, headbands, earrings. Gold or silver. Subtle or bold. I love a big golden pair of hoops, whereas my sister prefers her Michael Kors watch, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her wear earrings in her life.
  • Make-up.
    Starting with the basics, there’s foundation (which many not be too wise if you don’t know the exact shade she requires), powder, bronzer, highlighter, blusher, mascara, eyeliner, lipstick, lip-gloss, all in an abundance of shades. Do they like matte lipstick, or a shiny metallic? Perhaps she doesn’t even like make-up after all. You could even get some skincare stuff if she prefers au natural looks. There’s face oils, serums, lotions, scrubs, etcetera. Gift sets are always available and are usually the easier option, though if you’re looking for something specific Amazon, Boots or Superdrug are most likely to have it.
  • Bath goodies.
    Lush bath bombs are a staple of my Christmas presents. They smell amazing, they’re exciting, and I genuinely look forward to using them after a long day at work. I don’t buy them for myself really though, so they’re a treat when I receive them for Christmas or my birthday. Then there’s always scrubs, shower gels, bath salts, bubble bath, candles, waterproof speakers and even new bathrobes for all of your watery needs.
  • Hair items.
    If you’re pushing the boat out, maybe a new pair of straighteners or curling tongs if the women in your life care about their hair. There’s always serums, conditioners and masks for stocking fillers too.
  • Stationary.
    Notebooks, a nice fountain pen, post-it notes, folders, binders, multi-coloured pens and bullet journals. If the people in your life are organised (or need to be) or creative (and want to be), then cute little stationary items are perfect and a lovely way to get ready for the new year.
  • Winter Survival kits.
    Scarves, gloves, a nice new coat, a cute new hot water bottle, dressing gowns, a hot chocolate kit, scented candles, or a couple of boxes of chocolates, everything your gal needs to get cosy and warm this winter.
  • Alcohol.
    Besides from the obvious big bottle of alcohol, there are more presents nowadays to suit drinkers needs. There’s drinking games (such as cards against humanities and twister) board sets, there’s mixology sets and little luxuries to accompany your drinks. An example of this is edible glitter that makes glasses  of prosecco shimmer, or decorative ice cubes to spice up your drink.

 

And then there’s the list for guys.

  • No clue. Literally, what do guys want? Does anyone know? Everytime I wander around the men’s section in any shop, I feel like I’m in the desert. It’s so bland.
    Generally speaking, there’s some ideas I have for men, but really, no clue on this one.
  • X Box/ PlayStation games, controllers or gift cards.
  • Clothing: T-shirts, jeans… pants. I don’t know how you figure out what guy is more of a boxers or briefs kinda guy, but maybe get both just to be sure?
  • Alcohol. No matter what the gender, most people enjoy alcohol. Whether he likes whiskey, rum, or even cocktails, there’s plenty of choice.
  • Stocking fillers: Earphones, funny mugs, trainers or a new jacket, to be perfectly honest I’m running out of ideas. What do men want, exactly?

Perhaps not the most detailed Christmas present list ever, but I hope you get some inspiration from it after-all! Good luck & happy shopping!

Is social media ruining our friendships?

Social Media. Literally what it says on the tin, so to speak. Thanks to modern day technology, we can socialise with our friends and loved ones without being in the same room- or even the same country- as them.

When Facebook was firstly introduced into my life, it was all the rage. We used to post everything; pictures we thought were hilarious (but probably weren’t), what we were doing, what we were eating and who with. As we got older, we used Facebook to keep in touch with old friends that we didn’t meet up with. And while I do believe that Facebook is wonderful for reconnecting with people you haven’t seen with in years, or finding new friends, and seeing glimpses into their lives, it’s hardly sociable.

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I am never without my phone, it’s clutched in my hand every day and night from when I wake up to when I fall asleep. Instead of the sun warming my face, it’s usually the glow of my lit up phone. I use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, many different platforms.

Yet during the greatest peaks of my depression, I felt completely isolated, and alone. Instead of using my phone and this great technology to feel sociable, comforted by knowing that people were a simple text away, my phone made me feel worse. I’d scroll through Instagram and see pictures of girls nights out with groups of women dressed up and partying, or even pictures of couples nights in, and I didn’t feel comforted. Instead, I felt more alone, staring at a screen at other peoples lives, instead of living my own. Checking into other peoples lives felt like they were almost bragging about how great their lives were, and just made mine feel worse. Reminded me that I wasn’t out for a girls night, or for a cute brunch, or having a date night. No, I would be alone, probably in bed or on my break at work, wishing that I could trade places with the people in the pictures.

“When I was younger, we didn’t have all these smartphones and iphones. If I wanted to meet up with someone, I’d go round their house and ask them myself.” My dad would always say. He also said that texting is one of the reasons why so many tiffs and arguments with my friends happened. He thinks, rightly so, that it’s hard to construe tone and meaning within texting, and often these texts can be misunderstood and taken out of context. I honestly don’t believe you get the emotional nourishment (an odd statement, I know) from texting people as you get from seeing them face to face. Not to mention getting out of the house and doing something fun.

By obsessing over what we think our social lives should be, which is wholly dictated by what we see on social media, we take our friends for granted. In fact, not only do we take them for granted, we compare them to other people on Instagram. I often felt the sting of jealousy as I saw pictures of best friends in matching pyjamas, or going to concerts together, and thought about my own friends and my relationships with them which didn’t quite match up.

Instead of rose-tinted glasses, I had a rose-tinted screen, and it was warping and twisting my view of friendship. Of course people are going to put highlights of their lives on social media. Of course they are going to write ‘My bestest friend since day one, I love this girl! #soulsistas’ and maybe omit the fact that they had a massive argument on a night out after the picture was taken. People- well, most people- won’t post pictures of their teary faces after having a row with their boyfriend, or their lonely nights in.

And so, I decided that I wouldn’t let social media be a detriment to my mental health anymore. I would stop comparing my relationships to ones I saw online. Most importantly- I stopped being envious over what I didn’t have, and started being grateful for what I did have. I fell in love with my friends again, their little quirks and individualities, and what they brought to my life. Some of my friends are amazing to have long phone calls with, some to go out clubbing with, some for a nice meal. I stopped focusing on other people that I didn’t have in my life, and started focusing on who was. More importantly, I started actually socialising with them. instead of a few pictures and messages sent across weeks, I started meeting up with them, going out, having fun.

Social media is brilliant, and can be social. But it’s also deceiving. It can make you feel the complete opposite of its intention. Stop letting social media make you feel jealous, isolated, empty. When I use my phone now, I use it to arrange going out with my friends, and I can tell you, I’m happier for it.

So, what do you guys think? Is social media helpful, or harmful? Or like me, do you think it’s a mixture of both, dependent on how we use it? DO you believe in ‘everything in moderation’, and in this case, social media platforms? Let me know what you think.

REVIEW: CRAZY EX GIRLFRIEND

A couple of months ago, I stumbled upon a show on Netflix called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I decided to give it a go, and boy, I’m glad I did. Rachel bloom performs as Rebecca Bunch, a career orientated woman depressed and despairing at her empty life, when she stumbles upon her ex boyfriend, Josh Chan. On an impulse and obsessive decision, she decides to move to West Covina (which just so happens to be where Josh lives) in an attempt to regain some happiness in her life, and so, an ingenious show was born.

I didn’t realise upon watching that it was a musically inclined show, and the first song that appeared I was not prepare for and may put some viewers off but I promise, stick with the show and you will be rewarded. It is new, innovative and incredibly refreshing, but above all, realistic when dealing with events in life. It removes the romanticism that Hollywood often prescribes to everyday life, and instead takes dark matters and deep themes such as depression, mental health and sexuality, and presents them in a wonderfully light hearted and comedic style. Rebecca is all of us: slightly crazy, obsessive, kooky, weird and, in other words: not perfect. She is such an accurate representation of the modern woman that I couldn’t stop laughing and empathising with her. Rebecca’s character is one of the best female characters I’ve come across in the last year or so because not only is she empowering, but she’s also so relatable. You know those days where you look like shit, haven’t washed or put makeup on, just dashed out of the house to maybe stock up on tampons and chocolate? Or where you try and play things cool, when really you’ve been obsessing over it endlessly and you just brush it off when it’s brought up? Well, Rebecca Bunch, as the ‘everyday woman’, does these things too. She’s like an average role model, the one who celebrates her quirkiness and imperfections.

Some of my personal favourite songs (on YouTube if you fancy watching)
– The Sexy Getting Ready song (an accurate documentation of the process girls go through getting ready, and absolutely hilarious)
I’m the villain (A Disneyfied anti-hero narrative that’s incredibly catchy)
Sex with a stranger (for anyone who’s had terrible experiences on tinder)
I gave you a UTI ( A hilarious jaunty song which includes genius lyrics such as ‘My sweet love Injection caused a urinary tract infection’ and ‘If it hurts to take a leak
That’s just part of my technique’)
Greg’s Drinking Song (an old fashioned, Irish folkish song performed by Greg (the fantastic Santino Fontano) coming to terms with his alcoholism, yet in the most light-hearted way. Includes lyrics about him puking on his cat, having sex with a bush, and trying to fly for a plane). One of my personal favourites.

The best thing about the show is, in my opinion, it’s music. Ingenious lyrics, really- it’s incredibly clever  puns and play on words (Getting-Bi is a good example of a man discovering his sexuality, and just getting by with it, for example). And each song is different and unique- there’ll be rock styles, pop music, R & B songs, Country songs, good old power ballards, all of them). And the attention to detail in the show is magnificent, in Season 2 they compiled a song made up of different songs from season one- imagine! One big song made of different songs?! It’s awesome. The hilarity of the show is matched only by the skill of the vocals from every cast member- while Rebecca is indeed the protagonist, we are treated to individual songs from different characters with their own struggles and styles.

I could go on describing all the songs, but this post is becoming increasingly too long already, so just go and watch the show yourself. The characters are absolutely hilarious, including Greg, a sarcastic, alcoholic bartender with a pessimistic attitude, feeling trapped in his own life, his drinking and his poor taste in women, Valencia, a ‘Humble yoga instructor/ Kate Hudson / Princess / Bitch’, Heather, an intellectual goth-emo-scary chick who just so happens to be ‘Miss Douche’, and countless others.

The main content of the series is beautifully simple; Rebecca, on a pursuit of happiness, which we can see is an uphill struggle with lots of laughs on the way. Season two follows this idea, with Rebecca hanging onto the belief that if she ends up with Josh, she’ll finally be happy. (Spoiler for S2 in the next sentence)

The amazing finale shows a final epiphany for Rebecca as she is left at the altar, all her dreams crushed as she comes to the realisation happiness will not be found in Josh Chan, or the other men in her life that have left her (we see an amazing parallel of daddy issues shown between Rebecca and her new hot boss, Nathaniel)
By the grace of God, Season 3 has been confirmed and so I will eagerly await its release. The show delves into all kinds of issues: from having crushes on people, to making friends, meeting the parents, fucking everything up, being stuck in a love triangle, the hardships and weirdness of being a dad, the importance of female empowerment and feminism, homosexuality, racism- you name it, it’s got it. It’s and if nothing I’ve said has persuaded you to watch the show, check out some of the songs on Netflix or youtube at least, it’s worth listening to.