In (Self Imposed) Exile.

Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. The holy trinity of social media. I scrolled through them everyday looking at updates, funny gifs and random shit because let’s be honest, that what we all love: the lack of thought that goes into reading these things. It was a bit of escapism.

I was going to give up Twitter for Lent because over the past few months, it appears that the lunatics have taken over the asylum. Even though I try to stay away from all the nonsense swirling around the Twittersphere (especially since Brexit and Trump becoming President), it feels like it has been hijacked by the alt-right and leftists slating and baiting each other online.


It is full of trolls and jackasses who need little invitation to act that way. There have been times where a picture of a beautiful black woman is posted with a caption along the lines of, ‘she’s too dark’ next to it. It’s usually followed up by the tweeter gloating about how much attention he got from those who took the bait and snapped. It’s unbelievable and mind-numbingly stupid. I started muting and blocking people who were getting on my nerves or receiving too much attention for their trolling. And still I scrolled through my timeline everyday, reading about various events (or non-events) in people’s lives, various arguments unfolding before my eyes, constantly refreshing the page to see if anything new came up even though the last update was five seconds ago. It got to the point where it became exhausting to look at yet I couldn’t turn away, almost like I was rubber-necking an accident. Also, I realised the amount of time I spent reading tweets was time that I could have been doing something productive, which annoyed me even more.

This was also the case with Facebook, where I scrolled down the list of friends posting about their lives or some random video that they wanted a reaction from. As for Instagram, that just made me feel like I was wasting my life or I was inferior. All these people posting selfies with their X-Pro and Mayfair filters and pouting like models when I don’t even know how to pout like that (and when I try I look like I’ve been punched in the gob), talking about how amazing their lives are. I know 98% of the time it is a picture that is not a genuine reflection of their life at the time, but sometimes it made me feel like crap and was not what I wanted to see when I was in a mood.

Before this sounds like an ‘I hate social media’ rant, let me say that there are positives to all these apps. I found some of the funniest things I have ever read or watched in my life on Twitter, tweets that made me howl with laughter while thinking ‘I’m going to hell’ at the same time. Not everybody is a troll- there are decent people behind some of the usernames, it’s just that so many of them get caught up in the madness. 

Facebook is a good way to keep in touch with people from your past, whether it be former classmates or colleagues. Also (like most social media) you control who sees your life- I have friends who have 400, 500, even a thousand ‘friends’. I’ve barely got eighty. A few years ago that actually bothered me for some stupid reason, then I quickly realised that I didn’t give a shit. At least the people who are on my timeline are people I don’t mind reading my business. 

Anyway, I was going to give up Twitter for Lent but decided to do it sooner rather than later. When you’re talking to your family or friends and only half-listening to what they’re saying because you’re reading some nonsense on social media, you need to make a change. Or you’re bored and end up absent-mindedly scrolling through a shedload of tweets before moving onto see who’s saying what on Facebook then rolling onto Instagram where everything makes you feel inferior. It was like some weird form of punishment/self-flagellation. I was addicted to it (especially Twitter) and found that social media became a habit that I could not kick. Well, not this time. It’s been seven hours and fifteen days (not really, more like twelve hours and six days) and it’s going well. The first couple of days were a bit odd- I found myself opening my phone looking for those apps and realising they were not there. But since then, it’s a case of so far, so good. 

Social media can be like a drug if you’re not careful. The need for validation from (mainly) strangers…the constant pressure to post the perfect selfie…or tweet something funny…or look like you’re doing something amazing for fear of looking like you live a boring life. Honestly, who gives a toss? It was addictive to me for various reasons and it became unhealthy for me. So I’m in self-imposed exile for a while, bar posting some of my articles on Facebook. Wish me luck. 

Sizing Up ‘Mermaid Thighs’.

A new trend has apparently swept social media and women are feeling happier and perkier because of it. It’s called ‘mermaid thighs’ and is (and I quote): ‘curvy thighs that meet like a mermaid’s tail.’ Sounds like everyday regular thighs to me but, to my surprise, I found over 6,000 posts on Instagram tagged with #mermaidthighs, all proclaiming body positivity.

I am 110% for body positivity and if you want to post a photo of your thighs for the world to see, then go for it. My issue with ‘mermaid thighs’ is that something that 98% of women have is being treated as a trend. It is not a trend. I’m always late when it comes to following trends anyway and having big thighs is not something I wanted to try for a while and then discard when something new comes along- I was born this way, so I work with it. 

Why are people marvelling in wonder at such a thing? ‘Oh my word- a pair of big thighs! On a woman! Wow!’ Seriously? It is a normal thing that a lot of women have, like cellulite or short eyelashes, so pardon me if I do not see why ‘mermaid thighs’ are considered revolutionary.

If we go back in time to the whole ‘thigh gap’ phase, as we all should know by now that was something promoted to make women feel inferior to models and celebrities who had these airbrushed into their pictures. Of course, there are naturally slim women who have naturally slender thighs and that’s lovely but this is not about them- this is about women like me who have thighs that could start a fire (possibly). Possessing a pair of ‘mermaid thighs’ sounds nice but is not something that I feel needs a funky name attached to it. Nor is it something to be ashamed of. To class it as a trend is problematic. We should not treat it as something that is in season one minute, but when summer comes around, suddenly it is ot of fashion. It is a vicious circle that messes with women’s heads as they feel like they are never enough. To put it bluntly, it’s bullshit. 

So as I say, if you want to post your big beautiful thighs (or other parts of your body) on social media, do it- but don’t be sucked into doing it as part of a ‘trend’. For many of us, it’s a fact of life so sod your trendy terminology. I’ve got chunky thighs and that’s that. 

Love Yourself.

This year I am trying to do better in various aspects of my life. One of my main goals is learning to love myself because such a thing does not come easily to me. 

So imagine my interest when I came across an article today which listed fifty ways to love yourself. I had a read and it was ok, but I soon realised that this list was for someone who most likely lived in sunny California, not in wintry London Town. 

Telling me to ‘skinny dip in the ocean’ as an act of self-love is not going to work. The nearest thing to an ocean where I live is the River Thames and I would not wish skinny dipping in there on my worst enemy. There are absolutely no healing properties in that murky river, unless you count the ice-cold feeling that envelops you as you dive in.  

Another thing they mentioned was to ‘catch the sunrise’. This sounds lovely and I’ll admit it is nice to wake up in the summer to the sun shining and birds chirping, getting a fresh cup of tea and eating grapefruit in your garden or on your balcony, feeling like you’re in Florida. But when it is winter it’s a different story. It is pitch black when you wake up and the last thing you want to do is look at the sun. You flinch at the bathroom light when you wash your face. Then you moan about your impending commute and having to stand next to someone who either: 

A) has smelly armpits 

B) coughs or sneezes without covering their mouth

C) is playing music which is leaking through their tinny headphones while you’re trying to have a nap. 

By the time you get to work (or your train comes up from underground) you have missed the sunrise.


Another one was to breathe deeply all the time. Let’s be honest, this is not really feasible. Meditation is a great thing, but breathing deeply all day every day will result in people looking at you as if you’ve gone mad. It’s not a doctors appointment! There will be times when your breath will be shallow as a puddle, so maybe you should save your (deep) breath for those moments instead. 

So here are a few of my ways to love yourself. There aren’t fifty of them…but at least I won’t be telling you to go skinny dipping in an ocean:

•Stop comparing yourself to other people. 

Do not feel inferior just because someone you know has achieved something big, or that random woman on the bus looks amazing and full of confidence. For all you know, they might be comparing themselves to you. There is only one of you so own it. 



•Have a chat with someone you like/love about life. 

This might sound like small talk but it’s not- it must be with someone you can tolerate for more than five minutes. Bonus points if you start talking about random crap. 

•Laugh like a hyena at something funny. 

I was in a mood the other day and sat moping on the train, when I came across a video of a man in a polar bear suit falling over on an ice rink several times. It did the trick because I cried with laughter and the woman sitting opposite me momentarily looked a bit worried.



•Wear something that makes you happy. 

It could be the brightest or the blackest item in your wardrobe. It could be a red lipstick or a fedora for all I care, but if it makes you feel golden when you wear it, then put it on. 

•Dance.                                                             

The thing about dancing is that a lot of people get nervous about it. I love dancing but even I take a while to feel comfortable enough to get on the dancefloor (once I am, everybody. Stand. Back.). Don’t worry if you have no co-ordination or rhythm or you don’t look ‘cool’- just embrace it. If you’re still unsure, two-step all the way and add a bit of your own sass. As choreographer Martha Graham once said: “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.”

Do not put yourself down.                  

There are enough people out there doing that for you. When that feeling comes a-crawling, shake it off and think of something that makes you feel good. Keep hold of that thought for as long as possible and go on from there. Yes, you can’t be positive twenty-four hours a day but there must be something about you that makes you go, ‘yeah…I’m alright, y’know.’

Take heed of your own advice.        

If you’re the one that your friends turn to for advice, but you never take heed of your own words, you need to start doing so. Now. 

List your favourite things, or things that happened that made you smile. 

These things could have happened today or across an entire week but whatever they are, write them down (and no, I don’t mean seeing someone you don’t like having karma pay them a visit. It has to be positive, so your negative thoughts about that man/woman in the other department can wait until another time). 

Show Love.

Today is World Mental Health Day so I wrote this. 💛

Show love and be kind to yourself,

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else

It is futile and makes no sense

(I know this from personal experience).

Life is not supposed to be a race

We’re all slightly odd, there’s no disgrace

If you’re feeling down and lost and low

And you feel there’s nowhere you can go

Or no one to talk to, take a look around

There’s always an outlet to be found

That’s available, so try and take heed

Whenever you’re ready or feel the need

Sometimes in life, the shit hits the fan

And ruins all your best made plans

It might sound trite but be positive,

Because you’ve got so much to give. 

© G. Holder 2016.

Bake Off Blues.

So Bake Off goes on without Mary Berry

No Mel & Sue either- it’s all so very

Abrupt but it was inevitable,

But still, the outcome is incredible,

Paul is the only quarter of the pie

That’s staying in place but I’m not surprised,

He’s a bit of a (Bakewell) tart and I couldn’t see him leaving

But still next year’s series will have viewers disbelieving.

Some say they won’t watch when it moves to Channel 4

They’ll show no love and leave it forevermore

But I cannot lie- I’ll watch it to see

The new format, the new presenters- I’m interested to a degree

I’m hoping it doesn’t change too much

But with The Big Three departing, the viewers will clutch

Onto anything familiar that remains

But with commercial breaks included, it won’t be the same.

No more soggy bottoms, the innuendo depends

On the new presenters and how they blend

Into the show- I wonder who they’ll pick from the crop?

(Please God, don’t let it be Kirstie Allsopp).

 

Un-Fare. 

The barefaced cheek of rail companies to announce an increase in train fares in England and Wales is something that people should be striking about. 

Yesterday it was confirmed that fares would rise despite certain train companies cutting down the number of trains they run everyday because they cannot cope (yes, Southern Rail, I’m talking about you in particular). 

How can this fare rise be justified when train delays and cancellations are the norm and passengers are treated like cattle every single day? (Mind you, we don’t help ourselves when people shout, ‘Can you move down please?’ when there is CLEARLY NO ROOM). Oh, and don’t forget the issues at stations such as London Bridge where people had to fight through disgruntled crowds and slide under ticket barriers in order to have a chance of getting their train. 

Fares are rising at ‘double the speed of wages’, although this is denied by government officials (of course). Yet, passengers appear resigned to such terrible service. Can you imagine if this happened in France? The French do not need much reason to down tools and flex their striking muscles, but over here we do our usual, incredibly annoying reaction of shrugging our shoulders and saying that there is no point in protesting. If anyone does decide to stand up and strike, they worry they will lose their job. Well, considering the threat of losing employment hangs over them on a daily basis due to being late everyday and it takes many people several hours to get home, sometimes I think that they have nothing to lose. 

Then these rail companies have the nerve to ‘award’ their chief executives a multi-million pound bonus. For what? Incompetence? Stupidity? Outright arrogance? These men (for it is usually men in these high-ranking positions) spout waffle about how they try to make the service better everyday while sitting in their ivory towers. I bet they have never travelled on one of their trains and if they have, it’s usually on an empty train with a government minister and a camera crew, slapping each other’s backs and laughing about how they keep getting away with this. When they say they are ploughing money back into the rail infrastructure and service, I think they mean they are talking about those undeserving bonuses that they trouser every year. 

If Europe can provide cheaper rail fares, why can’t this happen in Britain? If anything, people should be getting refunds and rebates for the shocking service they have had over the past few years. Not year…years

It is disgraceful that fares are rising in the wake of so many problems with train services across Britain. Fares should be frozen rather than thawed out and hiked up. 

Unnecessary Poise.

Over the past few days, actress Leslie Jones has been on the receiving end of a shedload of abuse from anonymous keyboard warriors because of her starring role in the new Ghostbusters movie. The movie has attracted a lot of attention as the main characters are all female (the original characters were all men). As she is both black and female, she has been subjected to what’s known as ‘misogynoir’ because of this.

Many have come out in support and to defend her against the unwarranted abuse she has endured, but naturally, she was very upset- she even had someone create an account that looked like hers and sending homophobic tweets. 

But among all the vicious content sent to her, one tweet caught my eye. It was from someone (a woman no less) who decided that Jones’ natural reaction was unbecoming of a woman and tweeted that to her instead of, y’know, support: 

‘More poise’? I beg your pardon? 

So she’s getting dogs abuse hurled at her from various people/trolls and you expect to be demure and ladylike in her responses? Because she cannot possibly react like a normal human being and be allowed to give back what these people deserve. 

As the line in the legendary Pharcyde song ‘Runnin” goes: ‘There comes a time in every man’s life when they’ve gotta handle shit…’ There is a time and place for rapier wit and pithy one-liners and some situations call for exactly that. But when you are called a nigger, an ape and countless other disgusting slurs just for doing your job, sometimes the only way to respond is to fight back. If she has to swear and cuss, so be it- it is an absolutely understandable reaction. 

As for this woman telling her- a black woman -to act with more poise when confronted with such offensive comments: how unbelievably patronising. How dare you tell her how she should behave and react to such unrelenting abuse? I am not one of those people who thinks that people should turn the other cheek every time something horrible happens or is said to them. Even then, we- and others -can be so taken aback that we don’t respond in the necessary way. She was subjected to all this purely because of her race and gender and you want her to reply like she’s meek and mild. Various other women with an online presence have to deal with disgusting, inflammatory, rude and hateful comments on a daily basis, simply because of their race and gender or because they do not act in the ‘way a woman should’. So for this silly girl to tweet this nonsense is insulting and buys into the BS regarding how women should behave.

Leslie Jones tweeted a reply to her and (though it took a while), eventually this girl realised the extent of the situation and how traumatic it was for Jones and how she managed to feed into it by making it sound like Jones was making a mountain out of a molehill. 

I’m not even going to get into the whole situation regarding certain persons on Twitter and how they appeared to fuel the fire for others to aim their vitriol at Leslie Jones- I’m looking at this from a different angle. Despite Twitter banning some of those who sent abusive tweets to Jones, she has unsurprisingly taken a break from social media as a result. Will she be back? Who knows.