The Online Dating Minefield

It has become the norm, perhaps even passé (are you over online dating yet?) to find love, or even just casual sex using social media and the internet. Wind back a few years and you’d be getting bewildered reactions and cautions against creeps and freaks if you mentioned hooking up with someone through the web.

Nonetheless, pitfalls and embarrassing moments still wait to entrap us. I’ve been using dating apps on and off for a few years now, sometimes with ‘success’ and other times with atrocious, but thankfully fleeting dating experiences. Here are some of the aspects of using apps like ‘tinder’ and ‘happn’ that I’d be happy to have terminated, lovingly illustrated by the stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race…

1. People with embarrassing, arrogant profiles

I genuinely don’t understand this. Perhaps I’m being too harsh and finicky for my own good, but I just find some people’s online descriptions of themselves far too embarrassing to comprehend.

One gentleman had a series of presentation slides as his photographs, with each slide listing reasons why he would make a good date/boyfriend, overall urging me to ‘swipe right’ or regret it.

Another profile proudly said that if one didn’t find him attractive then it was necessary to ‘raise ur standardz.’ Okay.

Just be concise and honest about yourself.

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And if you’re truly struggling to sum yourself up in a couple of sentences then you may need to spend some time alone, reflecting on your own character and personality, before you lunge face-first into the dating pool.

 

2. The ‘Bug-a-Boo’

So you’ve matched up with someone or whatever. Soon enough, you receive a message:

“Hey.”

It’s short and uninteresting, and you’re probably too busy or not in the mood to reply to it right now. I mean, first of all there’s no effort put into that sort of greeting at all, as it leaves the direction of the conversation with only a muddy, vague potential. Where’s the friendly question to get things going?

So you choose to ignore the message for now. That’s fine. You don’t owe this stranger anything. But they seem to view this situation a little differently, and deem it appropriate to message the heck out of you until they finally get a response to their desperate, one-sided communications.

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Oh and get ready for the possibility of sudden volcanic bursts of anger and vitriol directed your way . Or in the worse case scenario a butt-hurt round of guilt-trippery:

“I guess I’m just not handsome enough for you m’lady. Which is a shame because were you to get to know me, you’d be able to appreciate me for the true gentleman that I am.”

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3. The ‘Sexy Pic’ Pest

We’ve all experienced this. The eye-roll inducing, wheedling persistence for a ‘sexy photo’.  Even after you’ve said no. It’s downright pathetic. And not to mention that we’ve just started talking? !! You only learned of my existence on this earth a few hours ago!

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There are plenty of reasons why a person might not want to send a suggestive or nude picture; a lack of confidence, a belief that ‘nudes’ are abhorrent or tacky, or by having the view that waiting until you are physically together to unveil themselves is the best route for a relationship. I have nothing against nude photos, or people choosing to send them to one another, but for goodness sake, respect a person’s wishes. People say no for a reason, and they shouldn’t have to justify why to the likes of you. Slime over to PornHub if you’re that desperate to see some naked flesh.

 

4. The ambiguous set of group photos

Just which one ARE you?! You’re already setting me up for annoyance by proposing a puzzle of deduction before we’ve even said hello.

And the sad thing is, when you do make the effort to work out which one they are, it’s never the ‘hot’ one.

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5. No relevant photos at all.

Some people just have photos of memes. Honestly. Trying to showcase your dazzling wit, are we?

And one person I stumbled across on Tinder had only one photo, and it was of a bird of prey of all things. It was a very nice, high-res photo of a flying falcon, I must admit. But how am I supposed to navigate Tinder as it was designed, and make a judgement on you from such an image? Just one selfie would suffice. Please.

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6. The Pseudo-Philosophical Twat

Textbook depth. From the very beginning it feels like a job interview, or an interrogation. But the questions are very weird, like they were ripped from the faux-deep cranium of a committed stoner-brain. And they come flying out of nowhere with no explanation or build-up.

“Do you feel the need for constant change in your life?”

“Are we both weird, or just wonderfully unique?”

“What do you think about the passage of time?”

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7. That Awkward First Date

I waited with a friend of mine one night, having pre-drinks in Soho before she was supposed to meet up with a guy she’d been talking to via a dating app. This was their First Date and she was understandably a little nervous. When you’ve never been in the company of somebody before, you just have no clue what kind of dynamic is going to emerge. Chemistry could naturally bloom and result in a pleasant experience that you’ll want to arrange for again. Or, a pervasive, flat atmosphere could have you wishing for a black hole to suddenly squish your body and soul into oblivion.

Apparently my friend’s date walked like a clown and made no effort in conversation. Stellar.

Heed my warning. Being stuck alone in awkward situations with strangers, for prolonged periods of time, are SOUL-DESTROYING.

So before you summon the courage to ask, or respond with a ‘yes’ to the arrangement of a date, consider if this total stranger is likely to be worth such a risk. Or if you have the money to spend on enough alcohol to get sloshed into apathy.

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8. Trying WAY too Hard

I’m so guilty of this. The amount of times I’ve socially sinned – making awful goofy jokes; replying back far too quickly and keenly; using a staggering amount of emoticons to seem engaged and cute. Ugh. Just push me down a tall set of stairs please. Where is that tiny voice in the back of my head to seize me by the lapels and tell me to cALM the FUCK DOWN?!

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Unfortunately, when you’re attracted to somebody’s appearance and they appear to have a personality that you’re sure would gel nicely with you’re own, then it’s incredibly hard not to figuratively flail and prance around like a lunatic.

I know. Not only are they gorgeous but they seem genuinely interested in you too, and it’s amazing, I get it.

Trust me. Wind it back a few gears – you probably look like a giant twat.

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‘Miracle’ Beauty Essentials

Flawless, youthful and dewy looking skin is the number one beauty goal for many people. The ultimate dream is to feel confident enough to forgo any foundation or concealer coverage because our skin looks totally fabulous and ‘perfect’ without it. Of course, there is a very valid argument that you don’t need to cover up your imperfections, and that you don’t need to look good for anybody – your appearance is your own personal business. Yet the confidence required to stop caring about how our skin and hair looks on a daily basis is far easier said than done. Besides, to some degree you should care, because your skin is a delicate organ and should be appropriately tended to, if only in the context of maintaining your own health. And if you commit to forming long-term habits pertaining to skin and hair maintenance then you will only receive positive results to be grateful for in the future. Look after your skin and hair basically, but do it for you, and nobody else.

However, with so many aspects of daily life fighting against achieving ‘flawless skin’ and ‘perfect hair’ – the harsh weather; pollution; a lack of time to commit to a proper beauty routine, and a confusing amount of expensive products to choose from that all claim to create perfect skin and gorgeous hair, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some of my favourite, student budget-friendly products that have helped improve and protect my skin and hair…

1. No. 7 Protect and Perfect Intense Advanced Serum, around £15 – This really has to be my ultimate skin saviour, through consistent use, morning and night, the serum manages to radically soften my skin and quickly clear up any nasty break outs that I might be troubled with. What’s also great is the gentle nature of the product – I have super sensitive skin that’s prone to horrible allergic reactions if any products have strong chemical ingredients. For example, a lot of make-up remover wipes have a form of alcohol as an ingredient, which nearly always affects my skin, often resulting in a painful, burnt effect that lasts for days. Goodness knows why companies put alcohol into products that are meant for the skin – nobody should ever put alcohol on their face, as it’s only ever going to do damage. Trust me, watch this video where a skin expert explains why you shouldn’t put it – along with some other harmful ingredients – on your face, it’s a really educational watch.

2. Maybelline Baby Skin Primer, £7.99 – This primer is super cheap, and makes my skin literally feel like silk. In addition, this Baby Skin primer is definitely good value for money – which is essential for a student on a budget – as I don’t find myself having to use much product to cover my whole face. It’s the perfect product for preparing my skin and creating a base for my foundation and eye make-up, helping to prevent it from smudging and sliding off my face throughout the day. Plus, I’ve had no allergic reaction to this formula, despite having highly sensitive skin, which I’m really pleased about.

3. Garnier Ultimate Blends Sleek Perfector, around £10 – A couple of years ago I made the decision to dye my hair platinum blonde. This of course meant putting my tresses through some severe bleaching processes, which thoroughly weakened my hair, making it thinner, less workable and made it prone to breakage. Garnier’s latest hair care range has been a life-saver for me. The large variety of mixtures tailored to different hair requirements ensure that there is a perfect solution for every kind of hair nightmare. I found that The Sleek Restorer and Perfector products were the most helpful for my dry, frizzy hair. The Sleek Perfector Oil in particular was a great addition to my hair routine. It works as an excellant additional softening, smoothing and conditioning treatment after drying my hair post-wash, or it can be used as a heat protecting solution whenever I plan to style my hair with hot tools. I also highly recommend the newest addition to the Ultimate Blends range – The Strength Restorer shampoo and conditioner, as my hair has never felt so soft or thick. Here’s another tip, a lot of supermarkets and drug stores sell the shampoo and conditioners from the range at a discounted price if you buy the products as a pair, so keep an eye out.

4. The Soap and Glory ‘A Brush With Greatness’ Exfoliating Brush, around £6 – This little handheld tool is a manual version of the popular ‘Clarisonic’ electronic face cleansers that are great for getting rid of bacteria and dead skin cells. After removing my make-up, I often put a little dab of cleansing lotion onto the brush, before massaging the bristles against a pre-dampened face. Be very, very gentle when using these kind of tools, as scrubbing too hard is not going to help your skin at all. Applying too much pressure to the bristles will most likely just cause irritation and inflammation, which is to be avoided at all costs as it’s painful and promotes skin that is easily aggravated in future. I clean my brush after each use – otherwise I’d just be smudging all that old bacteria from the previous use back onto my face again, which negates the whole point of using the tool in the first place. Also, as you would with a toothbrush, I recommend replacing this brush every few months, or as often as you possibly can.

5. Nivea Pure and Natural Soothing Day Cream, around £3 – The gentle nature of this cream is perfect for my sensitive skin, it feels cool and calming whenever I rub it on, which generally is in the morning after my cleansing routine. However, I should warn you that if unlike me, you aren’t very fair, it can very subtly make you look a little paler if you don’t thoroughly massage the mixture into your skin. And here’s a little bit of cute trivia for you – there are rumours that the Duchess of Cambridge herself allegedly uses this cream.

6. Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 30 and upwards, around £7 – You’ve probably seen this sort of thing in beauty magazines over and over – the advice telling you to wear sunscreen every day underneath your make-up. I’m a huge, huge supporter of this. UV rays are a big contributor to long-term skin damage, and can potentially lead to all sorts of problems, from pre-mature wrinkles to skin cancer. Even when the weather seems overcast, UV rays can filter through the clouds and have an effect, so it’s best to prepare in advance, and form a habit of wearing sunscreen on a daily basis. To me, the Neutrogena formula doesn’t feel greasy on my skin, and each tube lasts quite a while as a little amount goes a long way, so it’s good value for money.

The “Cool Girl” – Reasons why you can’t please everyone

I must confess, I am a little obsessed with the premise of Gone Girl. All that anger stemming from a betrayal of the heart, funnelled into such calculated, meticulous revenge – it’s fascinating, in the best, most macabre way. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten around to reading the novel, so I can only speak in the context of the film (which blew me away, not gonna lie). In particular I found myself relating to Amy Dunne’s infamous “Cool Girl” rant. She talks about how, after setting her heart on her future husband, she tailored herself to his wants in order to appear irresistibly appealing – the perfect girl, in other words. She essentially cons ‘Nick’ into falling for her, hook line and sinker. A pretty twisted way to go about cultivating a relationship, you might think, and I wouldn’t completely disagree with you. However, I also feel a deep sympathy for Amy, for it is insecurity in her own adequacy that motivates her to be so manipulative in the first place. And that got me thinking about my own daily worries concerning self-worth.

I feel, after some reflection over my short life experiences thus far, that I’ve existed far too often for the sole purpose of people-pleasing. I battle with myself about my flaws – it’s part of who I am to analyse my own shortcomings so I can recognise them fully and then proceed to take a scalpel to them whenever possible. I’m a prime example of a perfectionist. Self-alteration is almost an emotional safety net for me.

I’ll start at the beginning of this ‘self-altering’ process that I’m talking about; falling in love. It’s hard for me to find myself romantically involved with anyone, most likely because I have a warped sense of pride that leaps in to prevent me from even admitting to myself that I might have feelings for another person. If I find myself falling for someone, it becomes a game of mental hide-and-seek, as on one hand I try to coax myself into allowing some semblance of love to begin forming, and on the other I diligently push any snippets of emotion away into my memory ‘trashcan’, in the hope that they’ll eventually go away. Hence why it’s usually hard to guess if I’m attracted to a person, as I go out of my way to hide it, even from myself. It’s a ridiculous form of repression that I don’t recommend to anyone else. But attraction is incredibly hard to ignore if it endures. If you find yourself recognising your own behaviour in my descriptions, then please read on, I have some advice for you.

I think I can explain why I’m like this, why I’m so reluctant to open myself up to other people. After some thought, I’ve gathered that it all lies in within my personal history, specifically to do with past rejections. Of course, heartbreak is an awful thing to experience, after so vulnerably placing your trust in the hands of another human being. It makes you want to seal away your heart forever, so it can’t be battered and bruised again. But inevitably no matter how hard you tell yourself that emotions and love are a weakness, you do come across somebody new, who you feel compelled to draw close to yourself. After all, you have so much pent up affection to give! This time though, you tell yourself, you’ll be ‘smart,’ you won’t lose the game this time – you’ll make an offer they can’t refuse. And out comes the knife. Like an amateur surgeon you’ll butcher yourself for the sake of someone else’s attraction, hoping that this time, that will guarantee the absence of a painful goodbye. Whether you edit your speech, alter your sense of style or mirror their likes and dislikes, you’re sandpapering your own personality into something crude and shadowy in the name of being somebody else’s idea of perfection.

I’ve come to realise that it isn’t weak to be in love with somebody, or to even have a minor attachment. Being open to heartache isn’t a flaw; it’s part of the human experience, and ultimately is strengthening, as it gives us a chance to reflect on what does, and doesn’t work for us in relationships. It’s far more destructive and damaging to convince somebody else to be in love with a façade. True strength lies in accepting when he or she “just isn’t that into to you,” and being okay with that and moving on.

As Dita Von Teese so wonderfully put it, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” You can’t be everyone’s Great Star of Africa – some people think jewels are just absurdly gaudy signposts of wealth, no matter how highly praised they are by everyone else. In other words, you can’t help how somebody else reacts towards your existence, you can’t help who you are. And you especially shouldn’t assume that everyone is going to react in similar ways. Unfortunately, our subconscious seems hellbent on creating cruel emotional situations that go against such simple logic. Sometimes we find ourselves developing feelings for those random strangers that have an inbuilt aversion to what we personally have to offer. And it really fucking hurts when we realise this. That’s just life. So it only makes sense to make effective use of our ever-depleting time spent being alive, and make the logical decision to move on as soon as possible, from those who are ‘ill-disposed to peaches’, instead of wasting valuable time, energy and emotion on trying to mutilate ourselves into something we are not.

Amy Dunne would most likely scoff at my advice. But we aren’t fictional characters, and therefore we have the choice to behave unabashedly as ourselves. To fetter our personality with falsehoods for the sake of another person is futile; you can’t build a lasting, healthy relationship on lies. And to blur the lines of your true self and the cultivated self in due course, only serves to heap a whole lot more psychological damage onto yourself when the relationship inevitably comes to an end. Hence why some relationships end and leave you feeling like you’ve lost a limb, or can’t quite collect who you actually are into a cohesive, functional picture anymore.

There’s a quote, from one of my favourite artists, that my parents got engraved onto one of my possessions for my 18th birthday, and I think it’s time I started to pay it a little more attention; “Be unique and different… shine in your own way.” – Lady Gaga. Revel in your true self; its an effortless state of being, and those worthy of your company will find that more than enough. Those who don’t, aren’t worth your time.

Rebuke Being a Princess

‘Buy me pretty clothes. Look after me. Call me your Princess.’ I see this trope plastered across my Facebook newsfeed all the time, usually in the form of tacky quotes or video slideshows of apparently ‘perfect couples’ (usually heterosexual, well-off, cisgender youths) that this generation aims to emulate. The trope falls in with the grotesquely rose-tinted ‘Justgirlythings’ lifestyle so oft reposted, that is rampant with vapid, superficial ideals that teach adolescents to place their priorities in precariously fabricated places. Set your life goals higher than simply obtaining an attractive mate that’ll spoil you rotten please, you’re much more than that.

Continue reading Rebuke Being a Princess

Human Black Holes

None of them know, Aomame thought. But I know. Ayumi had a great emptiness inside her, like a desert at the edge of the earth. You could try watering it all you wanted, but everything would be sucked down to the bottom of the world, leaving no trace of moisture. No life could take root there. Not even birds would fly over it. What had created such a wasteland inside Ayumi, only she herself knew. No, maybe not even Ayumi knew the true cause. …As if to build a fence around the fatal emptiness inside her, she had to create the sunny person that she became. But if you peeled away the ornamental egos she had built, there was only an abyss of nothingness and the intense thirst that came with it. Though she tried to forget it, the nothingness would visit her periodically – on a lonely rainy afternoon,or at dawn when she woke from a nightmare. What she needed at such times was to be held by someone, anyone.’

The quote above is from IQ84 by Haruki Murakami. His simply phrased and structured prose can be devastating in laden moments, and this is a prime example. This frank, unadorned extract resonated with me particularly after reading it for the first time because I sometimes feel the same way.

Continue reading Human Black Holes