Valentine’s Day I hate thee

98174687_9a5daf5c11_b
Image credit: Flickr

I hate Valentine’s Day with a passion, which is ironic because the day is meant to be all about that. It’s another “New Year’s Eve” type day of the year – filled with expectation, and yet all you feel is greatly disappointed and wonder what all the hype was about. Even now as I spot cards in the shops I shudder. That day of the year when all restaurants are filled to the brim with couples sitting between bunches of roses.

I think there’s many reasons why I don’t like Valentine’s Day, although this post would turn into an essay which wouldn’t be very enjoyable for you. One, is that I don’t like the idea that there’s only one day of the year where we HAVE to express/show our love; your partner should be doing this all the time anyway. Two, like Christmas you only end up comparing your Valentine’s to someone else’s. You think you’ve had a great day, until you see that someone else was surprised with a minibreak. It’s the one day where you feel utterly shit if you partner does nothing (unless you have a pre-arranged agreement not to celebrate it).

“He explained that he “doesn’t do flowers”, yet weeks later he bought his mum a lovely bunch for Mother’s Day”

This is exactly what happened to me last year. I’d been with my ex boyfriend for around 6 months, so I was really looking forward to our first Valentine’s together, despite the fact that I had a few niggling doubts about the relationship. I went to the shops and spent ages staring at the cards trying to pick one that represented our relationship, eventually I settled on a cute one of two pea’s which said ‘HaPEA Valentine’s Day’. Corny, I know. I couldn’t wait to see what he had up his sleeve for the day, as he told me that he was going to surprise me. I’d already told him that I’d got him a card and spent the weeks in the lead up to the day hinting that I’d like him to buy me one. He’d always said that he wasn’t a “card person”, so I was genuinely concerned that he wouldn’t get me one.

On the actual day when he gave me my card, I didn’t feel special at all as I remembered how much I’d had to badger him to get it. I told him that some flowers would have been nice, yet I got nothing as he explained that he “doesn’t do flowers”, yet weeks later he bought his mum a lovely bunch for Mother’s Day. Also there was no surprise other than the fact that he was a shit boyfriend. He went on to explain that I had no present because he basically couldn’t afford one – “I was going to take you to Paris but couldn’t afford it in the end”. I SMELT A RAT. After this we went for a walk, and on the drive there we spent the whole time arguing. Then he cooked me dinner and didn’t even try and make conversation with me. It was an awful day. And yet I’d thought that because it was Valentine’s Day, hearts and flowers would somehow come into the mix.

“The best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had are the ones where my friends have sent me joke cards”

I’ve also experienced what should have been a perfect Valentine’s Day. Another ex boyfriend bought me a massive card telling me how much he loved me, showered me with gifts and had my dinner on the table when I came back from work (actually it was my mum that cooked it – he just bought the ingredients). I really appreciated how much effort he’d gone to and thought it was lovely, but I didn’t feel the same way he felt about me. So this Valentine’s was shit, but in another way. I really wanted to love this guy that had been so generous, but I just didn’t.

I’m coming to realise that I don’t like Valentine’s because I’ve never met the right guy. It’s all very well someone spoiling you rotten, but if you’re not in love with them then the day has no meaning or significance. If I’m quite honest the best Valentine’s I’ve ever had are the ones where my friends have sent me joke cards from a “secret admirer”. I love it when people take the piss out of the day and what it stands for.

This Valentine’s I think I’ll show myself some love. I could take a long bath and curl up with a book and hot chocolate. I’ll probably avoid all restaurants, cinemas and card shops. I’ll build a cave under my duvet and try and pretend the day isn’t happening, because it’s only happening if you celebrate it. I also want you to show yourself some love – because Valentine’s Day shouldn’t just be about romantic love.

What do you think of Valentine’s Day? Love it or loath it, I’d like to hear what you think.

BOOK REVIEW: Inside Vogue

c2jtmw5wqaa6lgq

There couldn’t be a better time to review Inside Vogue: A Diary Of My 100th Year by Alexandra Shulman than now – just as the Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue has announced that she will be stepping down from her post after more than 25 years, which means that her diary is of even more importance. Last year was British Vogue’s centenary year – they produced the iconic 100th anniversary issue featuring the Duchess of Cambridge on the cover and threw various events in celebration.

Alexandra Shulman wrote a diary during this year, which mostly follows the inside workings of the magazine as they prepare for the 100th edition of Vogue, as well as her home life and personal reflections. Her diary was a pleasant surprise – I expected her to only discuss work and not divulge any personal opinions about anything. I think of her as like the Queen – a very important person with a very important job but doesn’t give anything away. So, I was very surprised when she wrote honestly that she was disappointed that Victoria Beckham doesn’t show her collection in London anymore. I was heartened that she wasn’t afraid to express her opinion on people – even if they are a formidable celebrity with legions of fans.

What really struck me about the diary was not Alexandra’s writings about the glamorous events that she was preparing for, but her writing about normal every day things. Throughout the book she laments on an ongoing plumbing issue that she has at home and I just love her for it. Who’d have thought that the editor of Vogue would have no hot water? It just goes to show that even Alexandra Shulman cannot escape dodgy plumbing.

I felt that I really got to know Alexandra the person rather than Alexandra the editor of Vogue. It was nice to find out what she gets up to in her spare time and realise that her interests such as running, reading and cooking are no different to most. It made me think that really she’s just a normal person with an extraordinary job.

I must also add that I’ve always been intrigued by how high-flying and successful people spend their days, especially an editor of Vogue. And this book made me feel like a fly on the wall – privy to all these behind the scenes editorial conversations which the public wouldn’t normally hear about. As someone that also works on a magazine, I’m really interested in reading about how other magazines are run and this book didn’t disappoint.

It was also good to hear her side of the story on the Richard Macer documentary, Absolutely Fashion about Vogue. The BBC documentary provided a very one dimensional view of the fashion world and offered little insight into Alexandra as a person. I can only imagine how daunting it must be when someone shoves a camera in your face and asks you to talk about your job, however the diary gives Alexandra a chance to fill in the gaps and let us into her world beyond the office.

Inside Vogue is a real page-turning treat and I’d recommend it to anyone that is curious about the fashion and magazine world.

Inside Vogue: A Diary Of My 100th Year by Alexandra Shulman, published by Fig Treat.

My top reads of 2016

I read quite a few books in 2016, so it’s hard for me to pick my favourite reads. However I’ve managed to whittle it down to a top 10 which includes memoirs, autobiographies and a book on feminism (in no particular order). Happy reading!

Becoming by Laura Jane Williams

img_6101

If you follow Laura’s blog (superlativelyrude.com) then you’ll know that she’s a very honest writer and says some wise things, so when I heard she was releasing a book I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! I really loved Becoming, a memoir about how Laura turned her life around after her long-term relationship broke up. On the book’s jacket cover, journalist Daisy Buchanan is quoted as saying; “If you’ve ever felt a little lost, I hope this book finds its way to you.” I was feeling a little lost when I read this book, as my relationship had also ended, so I felt like I really connected to Laura’s story and went on the journey with her. The book gave me a real feeling of hope – that everything’s going to be alright in the end.

Becoming: Sex, Second Chances, and Figuring Out Who the hell I am by Laura Jane Williams

Jo Malone: My Story by Jo Malone

img_6102

I am very much partial to an autobiography and Jo Malone’s did not disappoint. I actually knew nothing about her background other than that she created an international perfume brand, so her story was fascinating to me. I also found it really inspiring reading about how she developed her business and made her skincare products and perfumes. If you have a desire to set up your own business then this book will provide you with bags of inspiration.

Jo Malone: My Story by Jo Malone

Ctrl, Alt; Delete: How I Grew Up Online by Emma Gannon

img_6100

Blogger Emma Gannon’s memoir is about her experiences of growing up with the internet and how it shaped her teenage years. As a millennial, I found this book very entertaining, partly because it brought back so many memories of awkward MSN chat conversations and internet “boyfriends”.

Ctrl, Alt; Delete: How I Grew Up Online by Emma Gannon

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F**k by Sarah Knight

img_6097

In this “Life-Changing” book Sarah tells us about the things we shouldn’t give a f**k about. Basically the overall message is that you’re here to please yourself and you don’t have to give a f**k about some things. This book is a great kick up the arse to people pleasers like me – to maybe think of myself and what I want a bit more.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F**k by Sarah Knight

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

img_6095

Amy Schumer’s memoir was a really interesting read for me because I didn’t know anything about her other than that she’s a comedian and written her own film which she also stared in called Trainwreck. Her book is so insightful, not only into her own world as a comedian but into what it’s like to be a woman. Amy has such an intelligent perspective and some of her thoughts about relationships really hit home to me. She has such a strong, funny and wise tone that I really hope she writes another book.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

img_6096

I’ve always been intrigued by Anne Frank’s story, so how its taken me until the age of 25 to read her diary, I’ll never know. I expected her writing to reflect the time of the age and be very restrained in the subjects she tackled, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Anne discusses her sexuality and romantic feelings. I also love how honest she is about everything and everyone in her life.

The Diary of a Young Girl: Definitive Edition by Anne Frank

Dear Stranger by Various

img_6099

You may recall me mentioning this on my blog in an earlier post, but I just can’t resist giving Dear Stranger another mention. The book really unlocks what it’s like to feel depressed, lonely and lost through a series of letters and it’s authors beautifully explain what happiness means to them. Maybe we can all learn something from this book.

Dear Stranger: Letters on the Subject of Happiness by Various

I Call Myself A Feminist

img_6098

I was excited to read this as it contains various different women’s opinions on the subject of feminism. What I liked about the book is that the editors have picked some relatively unknown young female feminists to write chapters; feminism is so often dominated by the same voices so it’s refreshing to hear new one’s.

I Call Myself A Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty. Edited by Victoria Pepe, Rachel Holmes, Amy Annette, Alice Stride and Martha Mosse

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

img_6103

I really enjoyed Cheryl’s famous book, Wild so I was pretty confident that I’d like this. Cheryl used to be an anonymous agony aunt called ‘Dear Sugar’ for an online publication and this book contains some of the letters which she received along with her replies. It was so comforting reading people’s letters and Cheryl’s advice, which is so incredibly wise that it made me totally re-think some things.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Someone Who’s Been There by Cheryl Strayed

No Lifeguard on Duty by Janice Dickinson

img_6094

Janice Dickinson’s autobiography is such a page-turner. It’s everything you’d want from a celebrity autobiography – hugely revealing, honest and direct. It’s also a great insight into the world of modelling and celebrity in the seventies. It was such a good read that I was gutted when I’d finished it.

No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World’s First Supermodel by Janice Dikinson

What are your top reads of 2016? I love book recommendations so please do comment in the box below with any or tweet me @Anna_Fearon

Lessons of 2016

croatia

2016 was a good and bad year. It was good professionally – I secured my first full-time job working on a magazine, but not so fantastic on a personal level. This year has actually taught me more about myself and made me more resilient. So I thought I would share with you the lessons I’ve learnt from 2016 (it may even help you!)

NEVER PUT UP WITH B***SHIT

I had this friend who I had what I can only describe as a love/hate relationship with; sometimes I really loved her and other times I really didn’t like her. She would call me names, bombard me with phone calls and get jealous if I got a new boyfriend. I put up with her behaviour for years, because despite all the emotional abuse she was sometimes really nice to me and couldn’t do more for me. Earlier this year I made the mistake of moving in with her, even though deep down I knew she was a bad friend. She picked on me and accused me of things that she herself was guilty of. So I decided that enough was enough. I moved out of the flat and texted her that our friendship was over. She was like an abusive boyfriend, shouting at me one day, then showering me in cuddles the next. I couldn’t live like that; she made me anxious. No one should put up with this. Not ever. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been friends; you don’t owe anyone anything. Never keep someone in your life if they make you unhappy.

PAY ATTENTION TO RELATIONSHIP RED FLAGS

2016 is officially the year of bad relationships for me. Earlier this year my ex boyfriend dumped me. In hindsight I should never have got together with him. At first he was lovely, but as the months wore on the mask slipped and his controlling behaviour was unveiled. Towards the end of the relationship, he ridiculed me and insulted me so much that I couldn’t believe I had been with someone so inherently nasty. How had I not noticed any signs? Then someone said to me: “If you think back to the beginning there must have been red flags, but you probably ignored them.” And she was right; even if I couldn’t see his controlling behaviour at the beginning, he used to talk about his ex girlfriend so much, to the extent that it was obvious he still loved her. MASSIVE RED FLAG. I deserved better. And yet I was probably so desperate for a relationship and to be loved that I ignored the warning signs. Never again will I ignore the red flags.

DON’T DO THINGS YOU DON’T WANNA DO

Have you ever gone to a party you didn’t want to go? Just cause well, you felt like you needed to show your face. In future, don’t bother. I read this book over the summer called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F**k by Sarah Knight – everyone was reading it, so I thought – what is this all about? That book definitely opened up a new window in my brain. Sarah essentially says that you should do exactly what you want to do, and never feel the need to put in an appearance at something. For example your friends keep inviting you to quizzes but you hate quizzes, and you don’t want to seem rude by turning down the invite. Guess what? You don’t have to go, just explain that you hate quizzes. I’m such a people pleaser, so it was great to think that there’s a way of putting a stop to this and putting myself first. The friend I mentioned earlier, who I used to live with would pressure me into watching TV with her when I came back from work, but I really didn’t want to – I was tired and needed some alone time. Yet I would always agree to sit with her for a bit because she guilt-tripped me. Never do this; do what you want to do and if people don’t like it – well that’s their problem.

TURN DISAPPOINTMENT INTO OPPORTUNITY

Over the summer I desperately wanted to take a holiday, but I had no one to go with. It seemed that most of my friends had already booked stuff up. I was gutted and had no idea what to do. I certainly didn’t feel confident enough to holiday on my own. But then I just thought – come on, you’ve got to do this. You’ve got to get more independent and this is the perfect opportunity. So I started researching organised group holidays – and ended up travelling around Croatia with a bunch of people I’d only just met. I even got a holiday romance out of it. So it pays to be a bit more fearless.

*****

These are my three big lessons of 2016. I’m sure there’s smaller lessons I can think of, but they seem insignificant compared to the one’s I’ve mentioned. So with that, I hope that I form better relationships and stand up for myself more in 2017.

Moving to London

Last July I moved to London (ok, admittedly I no longer live there – maybe I’ll save that story for another time), but the fact is I experienced it, even if it was for a few months or so. I’m proud that I managed to take the leap and move there as I had convinced myself it was impossible for a number of reasons.

I was sucked into the propaganda widely distributed by the press and pretty much every human being that London is VERY expensive and consider yourself lucky if you can find somewhere half decent to live. It was drilled into me that you have to have a wacking great salary (probably from working in financial services) to be able to rent there or rich parents. Therefore, moving to London felt like a lofty dream that probably wouldn’t come true.

I imagined moving to London and struggling to pay my rent. I had visions of being on the doorstep of a wealth of culture and experiences, but not being able to leave the house because I couldn’t afford a bus ticket.

Then there was the fact that I was scared. When I was a teenager I remember reading so many newspaper reports about crime in London which thoroughly convinced me that it was an unsafe city, with danger lurking at every corner. For a girl from a small village you can see how London seemed daunting. I imagined being mugged, having my house burgled and all sorts; the reality is that these things can happen to you wherever you live.

However when I moved to London I found that my preconceptions were not accurate. It really is possible for a young professional that works in the creative sector to move to London. I wasn’t struggling for money, I didn’t get mugged and I managed to find a nice flat with reasonable rent. I wasn’t living in a bedroom the size of a small cupboard eating tins of beans, which is how the press often convey London life. I ate quite well and had a massive wardrobe and a beautiful fireplace in my room.

I really loved living a short tube ride away from Central London. I had a real feeling of independence and excitement; I couldn’t actually believe that I was living in the capital. I’m so glad that I did it and can’t wait to move back there when the time is right.

I suppose what I want you to take from this is that sometimes you need to try things out yourself rather than listening to what other people or even the media say. It’s better to try something out and realise you made a mistake than never take that leap of faith.

The social media illusion

Earlier on in the year I was on a skiing holiday, on one of the days I was skiing I stopped for a lunch break. Whilst I was sat outside, a blonde woman in the distance sat at an adjacent restaurant caught my eye. She looked model esque and immaculate and somewhat far removed from everybody else in the resort. She looked kind of familiar but I couldn’t think who she was.

It wasn’t until I got back to the chalet later on that it hit me – oh it’s that model/socialite (I won’t name who) whose Instagram feed literally gives millenials “life goals*” or whatever that is.

If I’m entirely honest she didn’t look remotely happy, she appeared uncomfortable and was awkwardly picking at a salad. She was also very fidgety and held herself in such a way that suggested she was conscious of her appearance. Ultimately she appeared far removed from the glowing and glossy pictures she posts of herself on social media, in which it appears that she lives a very “blessed” and happy life.

*****

So why am I telling this story? I guess because it’s a strong reminder that what you see on social media is not always an accurate reflection of someone’s life. It’s the edited version, the best bits that they want us to see. Some people perform for pictures and set up staged shots, but that’s definitely not someone’s reality.

Some people, especially celeb types want you to think that they lead a fruitful life when in fact the very opposite could be true. It’s so easy to fake a smile for a photo and pose in a beautiful surrounding, but that doesn’t tell you very much about a person other than that they’re possibly photogenic and enjoy nice scenery.

It’s impossible to be happy every moment of every day, and I think some people’s Instagram pages fool us into thinking that every day is picture perfect and incredible. What it probably won’t show you is the tears, arguments and quiet moments.

This story just goes to show that you shouldn’t think that everything you see on social media is real. There’s absolutely no point in comparing your life to a series of staged shots which each took about 10 takes.

*A modern expression I’m not fond of.

Have you ever noticed a disparity between someone’s social media and their real life? Let me know your thoughts on this topic in the comments box below or tweet me @Anna_Fearon

BOOK REVIEW: Dear Stranger

Dear Stranger

If you’re anything like me and you struggle with your mental health then you will identify with having a battle in your head and the feeling of frustation every time you see a happy and glowing person. How is it possible to be that happy? What do they have that I don’t? It’s very easy to feel discontent but not understand why or how to fix the problem. Sometimes it can feel like everything is going wrong in life, like the whole world is conspiring against you; everyone looks so happy and you’re not. Happiness can be hard to feel and obtain, but Dear Stranger might help you to re-evaulate what happiness is.

*****

Dear Stranger is published in aid of the mental health charity, Mind with profits from the book going to the charity (at least £3 for every sold). It’s a wonderful book for anyone that is going through a hard time and/or struggles with their mental health. It includes a collection of letters written by some notable authors, bloggers and Mind ambassadors such as Arianna Huffington, Marian Keyes and Caitlin Moran to an imagined stranger.

With the majority of the letters I felt like I was being personally spoken to, which was a really nice feeling. It was like the book was on my side. The tone of most of the voices were kind; I felt like they wanted to reach out and help me by imparting their words of wisdom. For me, it felt like the voices were collectively saying, “You’re not alone. It’s not unusual to struggle to feel happy. I’m hear for you, I care about you and understand your struggle.”

The book made me re-think the way I think about some things. I learnt that its not possible to be happy all the time and that our happiness comes from the small things like a cup of tea or spending time with family.

It also imparted that we don’t get our happiness from other people – we have to create our own happiness and that suffering and going through hard times is part of the human experience. I used to blame myself when things went wrong and as someone that believes in karma would wonder what I had previously done wrong, but some letters in this book made me realise that horrible things do randomly happen and it’s how you deal with it that matters. As the comedian Francesca Martinez states in her letter, (which is one of my favourites), “A pain-free life doesn’t exist. And if that’s what you’re after try not to love.”

For me, the book was hugely comforting. It was reassuring to know that other people had had smiliar thought patterns to me and also encountered difficulties in life, but got through it. I think it’s great how some suprising voices were chosen for this book, such as Richard Branson. As he outwardley appears as someone that is rich and successful with no worries, so it was reassuring to find that he had faced some struggles throughout life.

I often feel disillusioned with the world and struggle to think there’s much good out there. But the letters in this book reminded me that there are kind people out there who care and understand.

If you struggle with your mental health or even just to feel happy, its important to know that you’re not alone. There’s no magic solution, but this book will provide so much comfort to you.

Dear Stranger, published by Penguin UK.

If you’ve read Dear Stranger I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Or if you want a book recommendation then tweet me @Anna_Fearon or leave a comment below.