A single person’s guide to surviving Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again, folks, when love – or, more often, thinly veiled resentment – is all around us. Love is in The Card Factory, on the forecourt of your nearest petrol station and up the special offers aisle of supermarkets across the nation.

In the past few decades it has become common practice for us unloved singletons to mourn our out-there-somewhere soul mates on Valentine’s Day, but I say the time is nigh to be metaphorically slapped around the face with a wet fish; nobody ever fell in love with a frown, as they say. So, as February 14th approaches, here’s my definitive guide to showing Cupid that he can, quite frankly, fuck right off.

1.Take joy from the fact that this year you won’t have to muster your best faux-pleased face upon receipt of a truly shit gift.

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2.Know that you won’t be feeding ‘The Man’ by purchasing over-priced confectionery. Make a point by spending an equal amount on normal chocolate. Eat said definitely-not-made-with-love chocolate with an acute awareness that you could afford to gorge on far more than your coupled counterparts.

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3. Look at your parents. This applies to even the most blissful of matrimonies. Just observe how gross and bumpy people become when they stay together forever. Ew.

4. Take a gratuitous selfie. Be grateful that you can do a Beyoncé and ditch your Michelle. Allow a best friend (Kelly) in the shot if you really feel the need for an excuse. Watch the likes accumulate and #humblebrag on Twitter.

5. Have a big wank. I’m talking a curtains drawn, headphones in, lube at the ready, taking occasional fag breaks kind of wank. Sometimes known as the epic wank.

6. Watch a film where someone’s partner cheats or maybe even dies. Thank your lucky stars you don’t have to worry about that shit. If stuck for movie ideas, opt for any J-Lo film ever.

7. Wear your ugliest, comfiest pair of pants. Revel in them. Give zero fucks.

8. Learn a new skill so that when your friend bemoans “Simon took me out to that new restaurant but I think the oysters gave me food poisoning”, you can boast that you spent the night learning how to throw authentic artisan vases. Single life is so enriching.

9. Remind yourself that, for thousands of women, the consequence of a great V-Day is excruciating pain, heading their way in approximately 9 months.

10. Ruin a wedding. For those of you still struggling with the idea of being a dried up, lonely, old wench, this is guaranteed to banish those blues. There is little more vomit-worthy than a conceited Valentine’s Day wedding. Head to your local church or registry office and light an effigy of Cilla Black. You’ll leave feeling like Carrie Bradshaw on crack.

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How novel: solving youth unemployment by talking to young people.

A few weeks ago, while munching on my porridge oats at an ungodly hour before work, BBC Breakfast featured a rather depressing story about the Prince’s Trust’s recent findings that a third of unemployed young people ‘feel they have nothing to live for’. According to the study of over 2,000 16 -25 year olds, a daunting 9% of Britain’s youth have considered taking their own lives due to the dwindling job market.

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Needless to say, it certainly puts things in perspective when you’re moaning about Monday mornings in the office – I, for one, can’t help but feel like an ungrateful ponce when there are so many who would bend over backwards for a stable 9-5.

That said, hearing the experts debate the core problems and potential solutions, it seemed to me that they were missing out one of the defining characteristics of Generation Y: we’re hustlers. In fact, it really bloody annoyed me that all these over-30s were basically just pulling sad faces and saying how we should pay employers money to create more jobs.

Generation Y grew up with The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den, we’ve witnessed our parents being made redundant after devoting their lives to faceless corporations and we’ve learnt from the government that we can only truly rely on ourselves. Against the odds, we’ve become, what I shall rather grandly term, The Entrepeneurial Class.

Unlike our parents and our grandparents, young people no longer aspire to working the same comfortable job for 40+ years. Instead, we aspire to become the best within our own niches and, more importantly, to live varied and interesting lives – of which a diverse and changing career is simply the norm. And if the current rise of self-employed workers is anything to go by, working to line somebody else’s pockets is a dying ideal.

Arts graduates are a particularly good example of this so-called Entrepeneurial Class. All of the young writers I know produce their creative work in a freelance capacity, with part time and even full time jobs being used to pay the bills. One of my artist friends creates vinyl records with faces of music legends etched meticulously on the surface – they’re awesome – and though he works as a barman, he’s also negotiated a commission-based deal to get Manchester’s Afflecks to sell his art in store. That’s pretty savvy.

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Jake Wild’s vinyls, available from Cafe 3 in Afflecks Manchester

None of this changes the fact that youth unemployment is a major social issue but it does hint at the avenues we should be exploring to overcome the current problem. Perhaps, instead of providing businesses with incentives to boost employment, our government should instead be making it more viable for young people to go self-employed, by raising tax thresholds for under-26’s. In education, too, surely institutions should be coaching students on how to best adapt themselves to roles not specifically related to their courses.

Equally, it’s important to boost the awareness and appeal of organisations like the Prince’s Trust and IdeasTap, both of which offer a great deal of substantial funding and training for young people. What these organisations understand better than our government is that in order to help Britain’s youth, you have to recognise that today’s youth is facing extremely different career trajectories than previous generations.

The working world is different now, and sooner or later we’re going to have to realise that young people are too. And if we’re going to tackle the youth unemployment in a sustainable way, we will have to include young people views, expecations and suggestions in forming the solutions because, after all, anything is better than a fruitless pity party on breakfast TV.

BONUS TIP: Since I’ve touched on freelancing here, I just also wanted to remind people about HMRC’s Small Earnings Exemption (SEE) as I’ve been surprised how many people don’t know about this. If you’re freelancing on the side of a full-time job, you may not be earning a massive amount from it annually, yet if you’re registered as self-employed you may still be paying Class 2 NI Contributions. If your net income (i.e. income after expenses)  from self-employed work is going to be less than £5725 between April 2013 – April 2014, you should apply for a SEE certificate so you won’t be charged for Class 2 NI Contributions.

I’d rather be single.

It’s been a good six months since my last relationship and lately I’ve noticed my friends stepping up the pressure to get back in the dating game. Though their intentions are kind – they really do just think I deserve a decent big spoon – it seems odd to me that they regard being single as such a terrible situation. Yet, I thought we were past all that idealistic Bridget Jones bollocks about coupling up in order to find happiness – Mark Darcy died, people, the dream is over!

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Now, I’m not a commitment-phobe, I don’t hate healthy relationships and I do ultimately hope to settle down with one special person. But every time I go on a date, even a good date, I go home feeling even more certain that right now I want to stay single. Why? Because I’m in a fucking awesome relationship with myself at the moment. For the past four years I’ve done the serial monogamy thing and I’ve done the LTR thing. The only thing I haven’t done is learning to be interesting and fun and alive without a partner in crime.

As a 22 year old I’m in a really lucky situation – I have a secure job, I have a great support network and I live in a city offers me everything I could want or need. I enjoy having nobody to answer to come the weekend and I like not knowing whether I’ll even be living in the UK in 6 months time. In short, I’m having fun.

And on the topic of, erm, fun… I’m not breaking any blog boundaries by admitting that I like/need sex, just like any other sane human being. Perhaps if having sex required having a boyfriend, this would be a massively different blog, but it doesn’t. It simply requires having access to gay bars and, if we’re being really honest, having access to certain apps. #Overshare.

The truth is, I wonder if people these days are so concerned with having all their shit together – which, in terms of image branding, is epitomised by a happy relationship – that they would rather be in a relationship with the wrong person than have to actually develop a life and a personality. I remember that after my last big break up, I felt like a complete shell of a person – I literally had no interests or, really, opinions as an individual. I’d invested more in being one half of a duo than I had in being me. I never want that to happen again, hence why right now I’d rather enjoy some me time than some us time.

So, for those of you stuck in the BJ era (Bridget Jones, you goons), I’d like to request an armistice between my relationship status and your pitying eyes. I am okay. Most single people are okay. I will occassionally eat ice cream but that is because I like ice cream, not because I am sad about being ‘alone’. When the time is right, and the guy is right, I’ll get back on the boyfriend wagon. For now, though, I’d rather be single.

How to be yourself in 2014.

As a fresh-faced 18 year old in 2009, I remember being racked with nerves when Goldsmiths university summoned me for an interview at their south east London campus. Until then, I’d spent my entire life in the small rural county of Shropshire, where literally nothing exciting has happened since Charles Darwin was born there in 1809 – and no one ever mentions that he escaped the wilderness at the earliest opportunity. I wasn’t cool and I wasn’t well-travelled, or even well-read. How was I supposed to impress a bunch of academics in the big city?

It was my Mum, as always, who gave me the most valuable advice: “just be yourself.” So, instead of pretending to be an aloof artiste (as I had practiced, using Meryl sodding Streep as a muse) – I just accepted myself as an excitable, little goon. And it worked.

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A mere 5 years later, however, being yourself isn’t quite so straightforward. Social media allows us to create entirely different personas from our real world selves and it’s easy to get our various identities confused. On Instagram, for example, we have filters to appear glamourous 24/7 – and you can crop out that damp patch on your bedroom ceiling. But the truth is that nobody is round-the-clock fabulous. We all have those moments when we trip slightly on our way to work or we accidently spit on our crush mid-conversation.

Life is full of not-so-glitzy events and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s how we react to those situations that make up our true selves. Those situations are the stuff of good conversation and those reactions are what can make us seem either loathsome or adorable. You might look stunning with a Sierra filter but I’d find it hard to be attracted to someone who can’t deal with – and laugh at – life’s imperfections.

I guess I’m writing this blog because it took me 21 years to realise that it’s okay for people to know that I’m never going to be cool. I can be geeky, vain, crude, partial to pop culture and excessively polite. I don’t know about cool bands or cool clothes and I certainly don’t spend my weekends at cool warehouse parties. It’s just not me. And since I stopped trying to be someone else’s idea of awesome, I can honestly say I’ve never been happier.

So my point is this: image brand the fuck out of yourself on Twitter et al. but never forget to be a real life, bona fide, full-of-flaws person. If you’re really brave you could even take a chance and be a little less perfect on the internet, especially as there’s a generation right behind us who are going to have some pretty unrealistic expectations of the world.

Life is more than being cool and, to end on a hearty cliché, nobody does you better than you.

Depressing things my colleagues have said.

The majority of my co-workers are nearing or over the age of 60 and apparently this means they have lost all capacity for feeling joy. Here are some snippets of what this generation deemed as conversation in the past 24 hours:

Obese 60 year old engineer: “My friends just been given 2 days to live. He spent 3 hours of that time in the hospital waiting room.”

Welsh matriarch-type cleaner: “I was violently ill over Christmas. I thought it might be my hernia but then *pulls a series of squirming faces* I realised it definitely was not my hernia. I tried to keep my mouth closed but even then I managed to vomit all over the room. It was everywhere; the walls, the bed, the carpet. I thought ‘thats going to need bleach.”

62 year old admin colleague: “I am very lonely now Josh has moved out. And the new house doesn’t have a suite yet so I’m just sitting on the floor. Thank God I’ve got the dogs.”

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23 Things To Do Instead Of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23

Wander Onwards

Marriage

As 2013 wraps up, I’ve been noticing more and more people getting engaged and/or married under the age of 23.

I get it.

It’s cold outside… you want to cuddle and talk about your feelings… life after graduation is a tough transition… so why not just cut to the chase and get married, right?  It’s hip. It’s cool. You get to wear clothing that wouldn’t normally be socially acceptable at the dive bar you frequent with the $5 beers.  Eff it. YOLO. YOMO! You only marry once…

Oh wait.

The divorce rate for young couples is more than twice the national average. Divorce is no longer a staple in a midlife crisis, but rather, something that SEVENTEEN Magazine should probably be printing on. Headlines could read,

“How to budget for your prom AND your wedding in the same year!”

“What’s HOT: Kids raising Kids.”

“Why your Mom doesn’t really…

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