My very own wayback machine

gemma-evans-64661-unsplashWhen I was a smallie, I always thought of being a grown-up as a finished state, a perfected art, no more polishing, no more learning. I thought of this in a good and a bad way: The good was that I would feel settled, secure and done. The bad was that this state was unchangeable, and if I happened to cross the threshold into Real Solid Adulthood at a time of sadness or difficulty, that I would be stuck like that to the end of my days, like a scrunched up face locked in place by a vengeful wind. This worried me, Little Me, but I was lucky to have school years that were mostly bearable and sometimes even joyful, twenties that were deeply compelling and interesting, and I always had confidence that far surpassed my abilities, which kept my spirit buoyed.

In recent years though, for various reasons, that confidence dwindled, ebbed away, and distilled itself into a small and ever-receding pool. Youthful confidence is boundless or non-existent, it rarely falls in between the two. I was either crippled by doubt or defiantly steadfast in my ambition and correctness. As age crept up, though, so too did my need to pause and question before an action, and so grew my hesitancy.

A great love of mine, a great comfort at difficult times, was my ability to talk to strangers. Not always in a deep way, but just to chat at a supermarket till or in the nook of a bus shelter on an October evening. Like my mother and her’s before her, I see it as a gift; a love of conversing, of sharing, of offloading. For someone with a troubled heart or mind, it is a moment to break a pattern of constant, compulsive thought. For someone with a happy mind, it is an opportunity to engage joyfully with the world around them. For me it was both. Even now in moments where I feel a need to be alone, to be silent, I never begrudge another the ability to greet me or strike up a conversation on a bus or a plane. I know their need, and it is more often than not one of seeking joy or seeking comfort, and I would deny neither.

In these recent years of confidence-ebbing, I found these moments became less and less common for me. I questioned myself before talking, I found doubt in conversations with strangers, fear in moments that had previously brought communion. Part of it came from living abroad, from feeling unstable in a foreign language or accent, but part of it was also the approach of Real Solid Adulthood, of thinking “this is the way adults behave, and I am an adult now.” Adults have difficult things that happen to them, and they are stoic and silent because of these things. Adults carry on about their business and adults manage their turmoil deep in their bellies, which actually isn’t really managing it at all.

After a job change that was rather a large kick in the arse, and the death of my Dad, which is one of the largest kicks in the arse you can get to be fair, I felt resigned to this new way of behaving. The Alice that spoke to people, who was excited to tell and hear new things, to be open and enthused, that was an Alice of youth, and that time was over now, and I was ok with it. I often pondered it, sat quietly thinking how funny it was that these swathes of our personalities could just disappear but this was what Little Me had prepared me for: That Adulthood would arrive, and the shutters would descend and that would be that.

I became, in a way, stagnant. I don’t mean this as an airy metaphor. I literally moved less. My presence stilled to a sluggish heave. I drank more wine, I ate more food, I became slower, a drawn-out lurch towards hibernation, but this was what adulthood was, wasn’t it? You moved less, you became more proper, you dealt with those things, those huge life-changing things that everyone said you’d never get over and you just never got over them and that’s why I was how I was now. That’s how you were, that’s how people were. Those losses, those pains, those devastating blows, why *would* you get up in the same way after them? I would live now under their shadow, like I always thought I would, but it was funny all the same to see it happen, to watch such a bright colour get erased from my palette.

The good things in life went on, of course, still love, still food, still family and friends, still travel and books and song, but that sense of outreach, that sense of a stranger as a friend continued to wane. More doubt and more anxiety crept in to quiet corners, and I stiffened myself mentally to bolster against it. I was trying to keep the same measures, the same surroundings, and the same reactions and just carry on through whatever was happening, this adjustment to adulthood. No pausing, no stopping, just carry on, keep going and get it dealt with.

Time, (as much as I fucking hate a cliche), truly is a healer, and also an oracle, a beautiful witch, a blessed God. As much as I tried to carry on with my normal way of doing things, I came to a point where I knew that progress was only possible through change, and that for me, change meant a pause, a stop, a calmer approach to life. More focus, more reading, more routine, and more normality. I knuckled down to work I love, went back to studying, and began to move. I ran clumsily again, I did yoga despite not really being able to touch past my knees, and I swam and spent hours in rotisserie level saunas. I dunked my head under water and held my breath, reacquainting myself with my own silence. I began to run faster, and with more ease, my lungs becoming less of an enemy and more of an engine. I stopped drinking, and started to try to listen when my body was high or low or tired or riddled with anxiety. I just tried to be, in me, in that moment, with myself and whatever was surrounding me. I could only do this recently, to have tried this even 6 months ago would have been as unthinkable as flying to the moon.

Three days ago, I went for a run during the day, sweaty and difficult on a freezing North Sea promenade. Afterwards, I stopped for a coffee in a little shop near a circular green lapped by trams. As I sat at the table, my glasses steamed up from the welcoming heat, I began to chat to the waitress, we laughed and pinged snippets back and forth, and when she walked away, a woman sitting in a far corner acknowledged me, and we smiled at each other, glad of our place in a warm and cosy spot on a freezing day. Glad of each other. My gift has come back, my ability to interact, and without even realising it I fixed myself. A chat to a stranger as glorious as a sign from the heavens. A “hello” is a blessing.

 

 

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Relief for the women of Ireland as change is achieved through real stories

This piece was originally published in a shorter Dutch version on www.oneworld.nl. Photo credit Melissa Mannion, Galway.

The voices of Irish women set out a vision of a hopeful future for all

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After the abortion referendum in Ireland, Irish writer Alice Burke takes stock. “After years of confusion and insufficient medical care for women, Irish voters have changed the course of the narrative: It’s time for self-determination, with room for free, safe and legal abortion.”

Growing up in Ireland we had an expression: “Getting the boat to England.” It was our euphemism for an abortion, heading across the waves to a country where it was allowed. We all knew women who got the boat to England, so common was the need to head off and seek reproductive healthcare elsewhere. Heading over to England was a byword for not being looked after in Ireland, for knowing that you would be shamed for a teenage pregnancy, a pregnancy outside of marriage, or for seeking an abortion for any reason at all.

Just over one week ago, a woman in Ireland who took abortion pills was a criminal who could face 14 years in prison. A woman in Ireland who became sick and needed chemotherapy during her pregnancy was unable to procure an abortion and receive treatment, even if her own life was at risk. A woman in Ireland whose world shook beneath her when she found out that a much-wanted baby had birth defects and would not survive long outside the womb could not choose a peaceful death for her child, but instead had to endure the rest of her pregnancy and deliver a child certain to die.

On Friday May 25th, the world changed for the women of Ireland, and the ground shook not in sorrow, but in assured relief that no longer would women need to travel to foreign jurisdictions to access life-saving healthcare.

On that day, voters said yes to repealing the 8thamendment to the Irish constitution that effectively made the life of a foetus equal to the life of the mother, prohibiting healthcare professionals from effectively caring for women’s reproductive health across the spectrum.

During the run-up to the referendum to Repeal the 8thamendment, a Facebook pagewas set up to allow women to anonymously submit their stories of how they were treated in Ireland when they needed an abortion. Thousands of women came forward.

“…The 8th has impacted on me, and I bear the physical and emotional scars of that impact. The 8th affects every single pregnancy in this country and is a toxic element in our maternity care,” said one.

“I can’t imagine having had to carry that pregnancy. I can’t imagine bringing an unwanted ‘life’ into this world; a ‘life’ that was conceived in a violent, hateful, non-consensual way. That is not what I would want for a mother or a child. Yet, this is what happens in my home. Ireland”, said another.

The stories ran for weeks, endless tales of loss, tragedy, oppression but also freedom and hope. Women opened up to each other and – in many cases – themselves and their own families for the first time. Close friends of mine took part, sharing stories of having to travel abroad for terminations in cases where they knew their much-loved babies would not survive being born, pouring their hearts out to complete strangers online. We watched in awe of the strength of these women, and make no mistake, the campaign was won by fierce truth and great courage of these women. Cloaks of shame became swords of honour, and every lost child was remembered with love in the midst of it all.

The Yes campaign became a space of sharing and support for women, where years of silence due to societal pressure and often religious conservatism had erased stories like this.

Watching from afar as an Irish emigrant, it was phenomenal to see my country grow and stretch itself in this way. In 2015, I watched from afar as Ireland voted Yes to same-sex marriage, with 62% of voters approving the changes to the constitution. This time, I watched as over 66% of voters said Yes to reproductive healthcare and access to abortion for women, and felt immense pride at what Ireland has become in such a short space of time.

Savita

Ask almost any Irish woman who Savita Halappanavar was, and she’ll talk to you about a case that brought this issue to the fore for many of those Yes voters. Savita Halappanavar was a 31-year-old dentist, living in Galway on Ireland’s west coast who lost her life as a result of confusion relating to the 8thamendment.

Savita was 17-weeks into an otherwise healthy pregnancy when she began to miscarry, and was exposed to sepsis. The law in force at the time stated that the act of abortion where there was no immediate physiological threat to the woman’s life was a criminal offence punishable by life imprisonment. By the time Savita’s sepsis had become life threatening, it was too late to help her. A midwife in the hospital attempted to explain the situation to Savita’s husband by saying Ireland was “a catholic country”. Savita’s daughter was stillborn, and Savita died, another name on the list of women lost to the cruelty of the 8thamendment.

But the death of Savita would prove to be a turning point for the entire pro-choice movement in Ireland. No longer were people polarised by the Catholic Church or social norms, people now saw the 8thamendment for what it was: a confusing, badly enacted piece of legislation that was leading to barbaric conditions for pregnant women.

During the run-up to the referendum, many on the pro-life side tried to paint an Ireland of rural vs urban, of catholic vs atheist, but at the end of the day there was only one side that mattered; the side of compassion. Only one constituency in the whole island voted against repealing the amendment. The need for equality of reproductive care and access to safe abortion united all age groups, all genders and all backgrounds.

With legislation currently being drawn up and expected to be in place by the end of the year, it won’t be too long before Irish women can go into a pregnancy with confidence that if the worst happens, they do not have to get on a ferry or a plane to stay safe. It’s estimated that approximately 170,000 Irish women travelled abroad to procure an abortion between 1980 and 2016, with over 1500 of those women receiving abortions in the Netherlands.

It is also estimated that those figures are much lower due to under-reporting, and also do not account for women taking black market abortion pills.

Several days after the referendum, on a well-known Irish radio programme, Jane, a clinical midwife specialist in foetal medicine in Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital spoke about what the result meant for the medical community in Ireland. She expressed reserved relief that safe guidelines could now be developed for patients and professionals, and talked about her worry during the years when having to send patients off into the streets knowing they would need to go elsewhere to seek a safe abortion whilst grieving for a wanted pregnancy.

The host of the show asked her how many times in her professional career had she been faced with a couple or a woman who said “I just don’t understand why you can’t take care of me here”. It was the only time in the interview that her sharply professional voice showed her true emotions. “Too many times to imagine; every day, of every week. It is heartbreaking. I think this legislation now will mean that we care for our patients in our country.”

That is the hope of every Irish person who voted yes, that we can now take care of pregnant women in a safe and responsible way, and that those same parameters for reproductive care are extended to our sisters in Northern Ireland before long.

 

We bury our dead

I’ve been working on some side projects of late based around migrants to Europe, and how utterly like us they are. Our losses are their losses when it comes to family, love and life in general. What will eventually become a collection starts today with this piece.

You sit on your couch
Cushions plumped, back supported
A cool breeze comes in from the open window
Your dinner was unremarkable but your belly is full
Tomorrow your alarm will ping you from sleep
Your day will start again and you count the days to your next paycheck

When your mother died, she died in a hospital bed
Her eyes were closed, her mouth easy
She breathed her last with the help of a small drip pulsing small amounts of unbelievable comfort through her body
Your heart broke, but she knew no pain
She was warm, she was clean, and she was in a tight circle of care

When her mother died, she was alone on a road
One gunshot followed another, footsteps ricocheted off crumbling walls
Her mother’s last breaths were gasps, no medicine to temper the gulps
The sun chased them all as they tried to say goodbye

When you buried your mother, you buried her in your family’s plot
She lies with John, with Mary, with Tom
The last soil closed over her and you shared a drink to remember her life

She did not bury her mother.
Her body lay on a road between the school and the marketplace, a pathway for trucks and tanks
She does not know where her mother lies now. She cannot ever visit her again in life.

When your mother died you grieved. When her mother died she ran.
She knew if she did not that her life would be gone soon after her mother’s. She ran to the only help on offer, a gnashing offer of care that was made risky by her skin. Your loss is only welcomed here if it is the same colour as ours and speaks the same language.

You think of your mother a hundred times a day. She thinks of hers the same. You think of how you spent hours together shopping and planning family dinners. She remembers her mother’s recipes for lamb and bread, and the clothes she stole from her wardrobe.

You lost your mother despite wishing that love would keep her here, but you lost her with great dignity. She lost hers knowing that the world had given up on her mother ever having dignity.

You turn on to your right side to switch out the light and sleep. Your mother’s face is present before you.

She keeps her eyes open, unable to let go of the fear of what might be next for her.

Both of your mothers wanted the same for their daughters. They watched you crawl, fall, tumble and grow. They saw your precious energy surge into beautiful life. You saw theirs extinguished.

The love is the same, the worlds are different.

We bury our dead in the way our world allows us to.

Bottoms up

It’s been a long time since I wore a bikini. They’re not the most practical of ensembles on a beach (too much sand, and it’s impolite to readjust one’s wedgie in front of a viewing audience) and so I usually stick to a solid one-piece, better for diving and lazing and all manner of things you’d usually do on a sunny shore. But this year, I’m heading to the scorching hot, white-and-blue terraced steppes of the Greek islands, and decided I wanted to go all out. I eat right, I pay my taxes, I ain’t never shot a man in Reno, so I’m pretty sure I get to wear a bikini in climates where it’s so hot you can’t tell where your face ends and the sun begins, even if I’m not of Taylor Swiftian proportions.

If you’re not a woman over size 10 (or about a 38 or for the Europeans), it can be hard to understand the constant see-saw of thoughts that are set in motion when you begin to contemplate showing flesh in public. I’m not an unconfident person; I can attend a party solo, have commandeered the odd set of decks in order to do an interpretive dance to Fleetwood Mac, and I don’t have any huge hang-ups about my arse, but I still can’t shake that niggling feeling of not being sample size when it comes to outdoor outings. Today, to take advantage of sale season, I started looking for some bits of string to cover up the essentials on holiday and found the following pictures:

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This is not a post about skinny shaming. It is not a post slagging off women who have prominent hip bones or thigh gaps or six-packs. All women are beautiful, unless they’re total arseholes, in which case they’re not that beautiful, but on a plainly aesthetic level all women are equal. What made me feel so unsettled was that when I saw a woman who was “normal” after all the hundreds of airbrushed, thigh-gapped women, I felt a shock and it made me feel so awful to think that somehow in that brief period of searching for something and finding only objectified perfection, I had lost a sense of diversity and reality in the presentation of the female body. When I saw these bodies, that represent most bodies and most definitely fall into the representation of my body, I felt, well, a little unnerved. Should they be showing that? What will people think if I go on a beach looking like that? Shouldn’t they – and I – cover up a bit more?

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I’m a 5′ 10″, size 14, and the sight of a woman in the same realm as me made me immediately feel like I should wrap a sarong around me and duck under the nearest sun lounger. What a crock of shit our concept of fashion campaigns is. This post is only about basic photography, it doesn’t even cover the much murkier depths of higher level advertising, where extreme thinness and unreality are the norm, but I just felt I had to post something for my pals and others who might feel the same way.

We have wobbly bits, several wobbly bits, despite exercise and healthy eating and all the things we’re “supposed” to do, and I’m fully reclaiming all those wobbly bits now. I’m sticking a little flag in them, I’m the Neil Armstrong of my very own Lunar landscape and I’m going to appreciate how fucking flawless those women look in their Curve or Plus-size or whatever other euphemistically named bikinis they’re wearing, and feel fucking thrilled that I have a body that can take me to a beach, that can dive me under the water and bring me back to the surface and roll around in warm sand like the Little fucking Mermaid when she gets her legs, although that wasn’t entirely a picnic for poor Ariel either, let’s be fair.

I hate that it made me second-guess myself, but I love that I went ahead and bought 4 of the things anyway. Thighs: Prepare yourselves. Ass: Your day is nigh. Stomach: Your tour of duty approaches. We’re off to see the world, and a grand old time we’ll have too.

A Tale of Trams and Mickies

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In all my dreams of swashbuckling overseas adventures, I never imagined a day when I’d have to invoke my newly acquired language skills to describe a hideously uncomfortable close encounter with a public masturbator on a tram. And that’s a sentence that I never thought I’d write. What a lovely day of firsts.

The tone of this post is an odd one for me to balance well. The point I want to make is threefold:
1) Somebody exposing their genitalia to you and masturbating on public transport is not ok. It is illegal and disgusting and fucked up.
2) This, however, does not mean that there are not parts of this story that were extremely funny and full of suppressed giggles because taking your mickey out and having a tug on a tram is also so preposterous that it just creates an air of surreal comedy.
3) No assault of any kind is every too small to be reported. People cannot get away with shit like that. Even if it’s only you shouting it at the universe and your pals after 5 wines, then shout away. But preferably tell a cop or a responsible adult.

I  think that people who know me, know me as a strong woman, possibly falling slightly on the side of overbearing asshole when I think i’m correct and also as being outspoken on rights issues. I would be the first person (in my imagination) to tear someone to shreds for attempting to make me feel small or scared, and I imagine a lot of others would think that of me too, so I wanted to write this as some very small attempt to show that assault, no matter how minor, is a mind-twisting event. When people question why women don’t shout or fight or create a scene when something happens, even in a very public place, it’s because it’s shocking to the core. Your mind doesn’t normalize it quickly, sometimes not at all, and the first port of call is often self-protection. If I, a loud Leo of a woman, got silenced, freaked out and very fucking grossed out from having a mickey swirled in my face on public transport, imagine how hard it is to speak out in worse circumstances?
I won’t go into the details too much, because they are unnecessary and not of interest to anyone except the police, but I was coming home on a weeknight recently at around 7.30 in the evening and was plopped on my little tram seat in a half empty carriage glued to my phone. Note I say half empty, there were other people around, but sitting up ahead of me. As I was carefully studying a newly changed profile picture or some equally momentous content update, I noticed a movement to my right. I thought it was the man trying to steady himself. I am truly my mother’s daughter; we had a spate of dirty phone calls to the house one year and we realised that they kept happening because my mother thought the shallow breathing and groans were signs of distress and kept asking the fella on the other end of the phone if he needed some help.
Anyway, I glanced to my right to check on the poor lad who was having difficulty with his balance and as quick as a flash, (pun entirely intended), noticed that he was leaning comfortably, dick in hand, hips angled toward me. My first reaction was to squint to make sure it was, in fact, a mickey. I am not sure what else on God’s green earth it could have been but I wasn’t thinking straight. I then stood up like someone had lit a bonfire under me, walked firmly away from him and waited at the doors as he stared me down and continued having the time of his life. How depressing, having a wank on a tram.
That night I walked home, told a pal about it, slept, woke up the next day and increasingly felt like I should tell someone even though part of me felt stupid and childish and like it would be badly received as an overreaction. I grew up with the sense that a flasher or a public masturbator was more of a nuisance, an attention seeker and you’d do well to ignore them because it’s not “real” assault.
But what do these fuckers do when the kick wears off that? When they’ve relieved themselves into the faces of 100 women and girls who have been silenced and forced to move away while they continue to hold power? Do they get bolder and braver and move on to other things? Are they abusers? Would they do that in front of a child?
It sounds apologetic and awful to admit it, but when I finally got the courage up to call the Amsterdam Transport Authority the next day and make a report, I had a list of reasons ready about why I was calling to report it: “I’m concerned he might go on to bigger offenses, I’m afraid he might do it to children.” But the truth is, it was enough for him to do that to me, to take away my feeling of safety and autonomy. And thankfully, the Transport Authority agreed with me and could not have been more helpful.
The most difficult thing about explaining the incident to a non-native English speaker is that I couldn’t resort to any euphemisms or slang words. It was wall-to-wall penis and other straightforwardness. The customer service person and I had a lovely awkward giggle about our agreed terminology before she talked me through the whole incident, reassured me they were fully supportive and were very concerned about similar reported incidents and urged me to contact the police. This also felt difficult at first, but it was a 20-minute interview with a very lovely policeman who then had his female colleague call me first thing the next morning to assure me that they were making sure that they were finding out everything they could about the incident and the man involved.
And even if nothing comes of the investigations? What happened as a reaction is enough for me. Having people listen and be kind and take note and not question why you didn’t just laugh it off and move on is a good feeling after I’d been made to feel so unsteady on my feet for a bit. If it was your sister or daughter or Mum or friend, you’d want them to be able to say it out loud too. That man took advantage of a woman alone, and I’m sure has done it to many other women and girls and I did the only thing I could do with it, which was to put it out into the universe to make sure that it’s recorded somewhere, no matter how hidden away that record is.
If something makes you feel uncomfortable and gross and it’s also actually illegal, no matter how much people try and say it’s only a “minor” thing, follow your gut and report it. Speak up. Speak up for women who can’t. Talking about it lessens the stigma and turns it into a less acceptable behaviour, even if those talks are just with your pals or family or partner.
I’m back braving the tram again, albeit making sure that I sit in slightly busier compartments, and I might add “Learning the Dutch word for ‘mickey'” to my 2015 to-do-list, but I’m very much ok. I just wasn’t for a few hours, and when I reached out, even though it felt weird and tough and silly for what felt like a relatively small issue, there was a support network that I never knew was there, and that’s a very lovely thing to learn. #keepyourmickeyinyourpants

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11 Headlines That Perfectly Illustrate How Much The Daily Mail Hates Women. Haaates Them. Eww. Christ. Imagine Being A Woman. Ugh.

Every day I do something horrible, reprehensible, disgusting and demeaning. I check the Daily Mail website. I tell myself that it’s because they have faster updates on news than any other website, even though their take on said news is usually preposterously skewed, but there are many sad, shitty nights where I’ve sat and browsed the beautifully named “Femail” section of the site, which mainly consists of women vilely slagging off other women and CAPS LOCK HEADLINES ABOUT CELLULITE. I ain’t doing it anymore. No morbid fascination for stunningly vapid journalism will drag me there. The following 11 headlines will be my strength and my shield. The Daily Mail hates many people, but these are just some of the ways in which it has shown that it really fucking hates women.

1)

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The time they made a hilarious comparison between a sex offender and a dude from Anchorman. It’s really a stunning feat as a journalist to receive information that a man has committed a sexual offence and to have “Fuck me, that guy is the IMAGE of that fella from Anchorman!” as your first reaction and then actually turn it into your story angle.

2)

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The time they warned you about your tricksy periodses. Don’t worry though love, you’re just out of your fucking mind on PMS and nothing’s actually happening at all. That’s the good news.

3)

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The time they said that maybe your periodses weren’t so tricksy after all, and that you shouldn’t dare ask your boss for anything without consulting your “menstrual diary”. I love my menstrual diary. It’s made from the womb lining I shed every month and is decorated with pubic hair.

4)

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The time they completely changed their fucking mind again. Obviously this was written by a woman off her face on her period.

5)

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The time they announced that women are manipulative, bleeding liars.

6)

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The time they told you that in order to be admirably thin, you should wear a suit that makes you “clench your entire body while waiting for the pain to subside.”

7)

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The time that their “EXCLUSIVE” story revealed the shocking fact that fat people are capable of having a good ride despite their hideous fleshiness getting in the way.

8)

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The time that the headline was missing a word and yet still managed to be completely fucking condescending. Also, I love that they used a banana muffin as the control.

9) 

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BECAUSE YOU FUCKING BULLY US INTO MADNESS ON OCCASION.

10) 

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LOL.

11)

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The time that they said that big jobs were too much for our little fanny brains to cope with and that with great power comes a higher risk of dementia.

And with that, i’m out. I love the world and its womanliness too much to be contributing clicks to articles like this that just beget even worse pieces of shit.

Old Shit Revisited: A Poor Assessment of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum Inspired By Awful Women’s Magazines And With Particular Reference To ’90s Pop Pioneers TLC

I’ve just arrived back from visiting the magnificent city of Istanbul and while there, I tried to figure out how my personally treasured but rather pedestrian photos could be made interesting to a public of some sort. Most shots were binned, but the entire time I was walking around the Archaeological Museum I had the bitchy voice of a Cosmopolitan writer in my head, criticizing the fashion choices of the women and men of the Greek, Roman and various other empires. I say men and women but I clearly mean women because Cosmopolitan hates us just slightly more than we’re even supposed to hate ourselves, according to them. Roll up your leg hair, suck in that gut and welcome to a women’s magazine’s take on some old shit (liberally dotted with references to ’90s girl band TLC).

Coronation Street called and it wants its wig back. Girl, that hair is doing you zero favours. You’ve sent us letters in your thousands about your desperation at finding a man. This hair is why you’re at home on your own eating cheese slices straight out of the packet. Careful of that cellulite…

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I said fix your fucking hair.

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These stunners are straight-up TLC: Crazy, sexy and oh-so cool. Pink mantel? Check! Draped layers? Check! But where are their men? Probably out catching food for the whole gang for a cosy fireside picnic. #paleo

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This deconstructed man just screams modern art genie Damian Hirst: Bold and brave. But there’s also a stunning fragility about his floating limbs as they’d lift you up and away from the sorrow of debating exactly how long your pubic hair should be to remain acceptable. Throw that rock away mister and wrap those guns around me any time!

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Folds of luscious fabrics here to cover those sinful days when you forgot to shave! There’s no excuse girls so make sure next time you’ve got those legs ready to rock that mini-skirt. Shave or be single; the decision is yours…

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A little extra room around the waist on this one for gassy, bloated menstrual days. Just make sure you clog it all up with expensive feminine hygiene products, then take all the painkillers God has graced the earth with and turn that frown upside down. Nobody gives a shit about your body being a wondrous reproductive machine, they just get grossed out by your blood and back pain so sort it out dummy!

File 6

We all know this one, am I right? You wake up on a Saturday morning after Friday drinks at the new job and all of a sudden: “Dude, where’s my arm?!” Don’t fret, your boss will more than likely respond to mild flirting and even suggestions of inappropriate behaviour so go right ahead and use those feminine wiles. #noshameinbeingawoman

File 8

Double denim? What WERE you thinking? Or is that a slashed denim jumpsuit… Whatever, you shouldn’t be fussy. He’s a man and he might want you so get those glad rags on and shimmy on over.

File 10

Stop the lights and call the Mayor, we have a winner! Cross body elegance from our headless friend shows you never have an excuse for saggy boobs. Had children? Who cares?! Get those girls pointing to the North Pole with this genius wrap. Also, has somebody asked Diane Von Furstenburg where she got her inspiration from? Seems suspicious to me… #notcallingyoualiar

File 12

Hand on hip: Ladies, he’s not afraid of his feelings. What a total #joy.

File 13

Partridge penis and bull saliva are the only things you need to give your man a VERY happy Christmas! #tesco

File 15 Impotence

And finally ladies, the dream. Your robed man, handing you a declaration of his love despite your hairy, covered-up legs. Note the midriff action (can we all thank TLC one more time?).

File 17 END