Don’t blame the young for feeling politically disillusioned

So, I’m sure I need to tell precisely no one that Brexit happened this weekend; it’s all over the world news, and I’m almost certain it’s the first time in history that the whole world is laughing except the British. But I’m not going to go into the ins and outs (no pun intended) of that result or the aftermath. What I want to address is a far older complaint.

One thing that those within the UK know that perhaps those outside don’t know is that the UK’s young overwhelmingly supported remaining within the EU, but were outvoted by gran and grandad, much to the anger and disappointment of the voting youth. I can see why they’re angry – whilst I’m not suggesting that the older vote is in any way diminished or even unanimous, it’s a bit odd that the young people that voted to remain will be the ones living with the decision for so long and yet can do nothing to affect the change they wanted to see. It’s kinda sad.

But almost as soon as they were published, the voices of the young people who did vote were dismissed entirely because “if they really cared, why did so few young people vote?”.

Untitled
“Sorry guys, we’d take you seriously but you couldn’t even get Kevin down the road to vote. I mean sure, you didn’t even know he existed, but as a part of your demographic you are somehow magically responsible for him and his ilk.”

I would like to point out that the survey was conducted on young people who did actually vote, so it’s unfair to dismiss their opinion for something so totally out of their control. As someone who voted and is under 24, I’d like to say that I don’t appreciate that. I’d also like to point out that I share the frustration of the whole nation that so few young people in this country engage with politics of any kind – not just this referendum but all of the previous general elections in my lifetime in which the youth vote has continually declined.

But, perhaps more importantly, as a young person I TOTALLY understand why they don’t engage with politics. In fact I openly admit that I feel that pull towards not voting at each point that it’s offered to me. My main motivator for voting, if I’m honest, is the knowledge that so many died to give me the chance to do it.

The motivation not to vote is something I picked up on before I was even eligible. When I was 16, still doing my GCSEs and totally unable to have a say in the country, the 2010 General Election was a popular a talking point for me and my friends than that shitty movie Twilight and it’s never ending sequels. We quickly found that when the country goes to the polls, politicians come out in force to tell the young how much their vote matters, and to make sexy promises like the one Nick Clegg made. You remember, don’t you? The one he immediately backtracked on, issued a non-apology for two years later, and effectively ruined his career over. But I guess we at least got a cool song from it… Not much of a silver lining when I look at my £46,500+ of student debt but it’s something I suppose.

But there you go – I’d learned already not to trust the promises that politicians make when we go to the polls. Over the years that followed, as I passed into voting eligibility, I quickly learned other things too. Mainly that politicians only care about the young voters when we’re at the polls – the rest of the time they honestly couldn’t give a shit what we think, even if we are disproportionately affected by their policies. Take for example the proposed policy to cut various benefits for under 25s in order to save money. Sure, they work shit jobs in a shit economy where they aren’t guaranteed any hours at all, but that just means they don’t pay enough in as far as we’re concerned so fuck ’em. They should go back to living with mum and dad, even if there aren’t any jobs with mum and dad and mum and dad both live in a cemetary or something. What about the so-called-but-not-actually-accurate ‘Living Wage’? I personally thought the idea of a Living Wage was fabulous, signing numerous petitions to see it. I don’t recall having ever said “WOW, this is so fab, please keep me out of it!” Sure, I appreciate that maybe they can’t otherwise afford to do it (and I know they certainly can’t now the economy is up shit creek), but voting it in anyway is basically a declaration that MPs are more than willing to sacrifice living standards for under 25s to suit basically everyone else. Cheers, guys.

None of this was stuff I’d voted for, but I believed in democracy and I’d naively hoped that politicians would spare a thought for us before plowing ahead with their various policies. But every policy that was announced since I became eligible to vote seemed to have a small print that excluded us as a demographic. It’s hard not to wonder what the point is in voting when you sort of know that’s going to be the case.

The point is, politicians can’t ignore the young and throw them under the bus continually and then turn around and ask them to trust them or even help them when it’s time to make a decision about running the country. If you want young people to get involved, involve them or at least acknowledge they exist more than once every 5 years. And when you want to know why under 25s didn’t vote en masse to stop Brexit, remind yourself that they’d been taught from before they could even vote that their opinion didn’t really matter anyway.

 

Don’t blame the young for feeling politically disillusioned

Some offense taken: Please stop asking us about marriage

My fifth anniversary with my partner is fast approaching, and that’s pretty great – not only as a testament to the amount of time two human beings can be with each other and not bludgeon each other to death, but as a fabulous excuse for steak.

Anniversary, I salute you.

Sadly, not everything about this will be as wonderful as steak and cuddles. It is an unfortunate fact that other people exist in this world solely – at least it seems – to stick their nose right into your personal affairs. So while most people will congratulate you on not killing someone with a gleeful “grtz”, others will come right out and ask you that goddamn question that most people who’ve been dating someone for a little while get. The one that gets more and more bloody frequent – and frustrating – the longer you date.

“When are you getting married?”

images

I hate that question. “Why, Laura?” you don’t ask. “Why hate the seemingly innocent, genuinely curious question?” I’ll tell you, curious stranger!

1. It’s part of some unwritten formula for doing hetrosexual relationships

As I said, the longer you spend with someone, the more likely you are to be asked about your marriage plans and if they’re your “one”. While no one says it – and I’m sure a whole bunch of folks are going to yell at me – it strikes me that there is some rule book out there that states time = marriage. But that’s kind of total bollocks. You could meet someone and rush into a perfectly fab marriage, get judged (it goes against the “rule”), and stay together for always. You could also spend years with someone, get married, and basically hate each other the whole time.

Time basically doesn’t factor into it. It’s about the quality of your relationship. While it might seem like the two are related, time doesn’t equal good quality. Your relationship is not a piece of furniture.

Plus, as I always like to point out at this point, I’m 21 going on 16. I still don’t feel mature enough for half these decisions regardless of time spent together.

2. No one is asking my partner this… well, not as frequently anyway

This isn’t a question that only the ladies get asked and I’m not saying that it is. But you have to question why I get this question from everyone during these sorts of occasions, and why my partner reports basically never getting asked this. As in ever. In fact the only time he gets asked about marriage is when he’s being told the benefits for a man of avoiding it like the plague.

“Those are certainly some interesting new pyjamas you’ve got there, dear. Did you go on ebay drunk again?”

If we’re both in the same room together, I am definitely going to be asked about marriage plans. All the jokes about how we should totally avoid marriage are directed at the males in the room, including my partner… who actually wants to get married eventually, kinda unlike myself. Why does my ownership of lady parts mean I should get all the serious questions about families? Maybe it’s because…

3. Everyone assumes women really want to get married, and men are the unwilling party

There’s this prevailing assumption among the people that ask this question that I want to get married. My partner reports hearing the exact opposite assumption – everyone assumes he doesn’t want to, and that I’ll have to drag him down the isle. Frankly, trying to then explain to these people that I’m not super keen on the idea of getting married ever is an idea met with confusion and revulsion. It’s almost a given that the man will be “scared of commitment”, as they so nicely put these things, but the idea that I as a chick would be anything other than obsessed with weddings is abhorrent and offensive to a surprisingly large array of people that ask me these questions.

4. The concept of bridezillas

Because too frequently my desire not to get married right now, if ever, is met with some despair about how I’ll be missing out on the biggest, most extravagant celebration of me. “But Laura!” they cry, “you won’t get to wear that beautiful dress!” Yes, obviously the clothing is the point of getting hitched. Forget signing the certificate or doing the legal bit, let’s just spend all the money in the world to throw one giant bash in honour of me (and my partner), because I really love the spotlight so much.

Me when he stops looking for two seconds to sign the papers.

It’s a total turn off.

5. It devalues our current commitment and feelings for one another

This is kinda the main reason that the constant questioning about us getting married one day winds me up so much. It’s not just that there’s a loaded, gendered expectation that we should get married, but it’s the judgement that is subtly applied to our current relationship because we aren’t married.

Despite its declining popularity and the emergence of more diverse forms of relationships, marriage is very much still championed as the relationship and familial ideal. If you don’t believe me, look at all the tax breaks afforded to married couples specifically designed to encourage the practice. The notion still exists that you find the person you love, and you settle down and commit to them through marriage, and then you maybe even have kids.

The problem I have with this is the assumption that you can’t be totally committed to your partner, forever, and love them unconditionally without having a legally binding document to prove it. I can’t imagine another scenario where you decide, “hey, I like this person, let me give them a contract to sign so they can see that!”

That shit is CRAZY.

But in this scenario, my love for my partner and our relationship is somehow lesser than those of married couples by default, simply because we don’t have that bit of paper. It doesn’t matter that we are a coherent unit, that we adore each other and are always there for one another. It is irrelevant that we’d save each other from burning buildings or pirate zombie invasions. We aren’t married, so as far as wider society is concerned right now, that makes us lesser. There’s something really sad in that.

I take your point.

Yup. So please people – stop asking me when I’m getting married. Instead, why don’t you try congratulating us and asking us how it’s all going? Cos it’s actually pretty great just the way it is.

Some offense taken: Please stop asking us about marriage

I Talk Shit (Sometimes)

Once upon a time, there was a man who hated a certain sort of person. They got on his nerves so much that he would scream, and steam would come out of his ears. His doctor thought this most unhealthy. One day, the man came up with a cunning plan. “Aha!” he thought, “I can take to the internet to complain about those people!”. So he took to the internet and wrote huge essays in which he branded all those sorts of people “psychopaths”, complete with his own definition of a psychopath…

You’ve probably noticed that I write a lot of stuff which can be said to be somewhat factual; usually based on my own interest or *cough* “expertise”. But, it’s also full of opinions – like my love of pants or my firm belief that prisons don’t really reduce crime (have I mentioned that?). A lot of blogs are that way – if you skim through a few posts, you’ll find an intricate mix of fact and opinion. That’s great; who wants to read a boring, perfectly-balanced essay outside of erm… a place where that sort of thing is standard? Exactly – only weirdos. Fact.

Weirdo.
Weirdo.

The problem comes when you consider that people like my Auntie, or the users of 4chan, actually use the internet. By which I mean those people that believe everything they read, even if it doesn’t make sense or contradicts other information they have read. Where a non-gullible person might look at an obviously wrong thing (say, an instance where the whole world is branded psychotic) and think “what utter nonsense this blogger is talking!”, other folks will look at it and think it’s some seriously deep shit, kept from us under lock and key by the man.

So what?

To explain why this is such a big problem, we need to return to my Auntie. Sorry, Auntie… I’m not poking fun, you’re just a very good example. You see, she is one of your typical Facebook spammers. She LOVES to share things, and puts no consideration at all into whether or not anyone wants to read it. She especially loves the “shocking” “facts” that do the rounds on there – stuff like secret changes to privacy settings, or about new bugs that will eat your insides out that are everywhere, totes. She genuinely believes this stuff, as I mentioned before; she doesn’t even think to double check any of the information she meets, leading to problems where she has made her Facebook page easily accessible to just about anyone, and half her Facebook friends won’t buy pillows anymore for fear of being eaten alive.

Exhibit A.
Exhibit A.

It all sounds relatively harmless – but there’s more than just Facebook on the internet. What about scammy emails? For starters, my Auntie is a prime target for the Prince of Nigeria. And what about health misinformation? What if seriously ill people suddenly stopped all their treatments, convinced they were going to die if they carried on?

 I’m not exaggerating. In fact, to get my Auntie to stop sharing every bit of crap she came across, another relative told her they all contained viruses that she unwittingly sent to all her Facebook buddies. She didn’t check this and automatically believed it; we’ve not heard a peep since.

And what?

What I’m trying to say is that the internet is full of crap, and if you flick through a few blog posts, the same is true. But the internet is also being used by people who find it super difficult to work out what is real and what is fake. We have to put some responsibility on people to use their common sense and fact check things, sure, but we also have to accept that people are lazy and gullible and just don’t do that. Some responsibility therefore lands on the people creating the content. So for everyone’s sake, please consider this when writing your blog! It takes two minutes to state where the fuck you are getting this from, and if you can’t find something to back it up, state it is an opinion (not the same as fact), or just don’t write it. Simple pimple.

I Talk Shit (Sometimes)

10 Things I Will (Not) Regret In Ten Years Time.

I made the mistake of going on Facebook today – apparently some woman is having her second child, it’s the talk of erm… Britain. (Maybe she’s important somehow, like maybe she was working on the cure for a disease or something? I mean, the media is kind of going crazy, so she must be soooooo important!)

Anyway, among the drivel about a peanut-sized fetus, there was this gem about how I am totally going to regret these ten “choices” in ten years.  I mean, that’s vastly important information so I thought I’d better read it, before I get that tattoo of my driving license on my arm.

Apparently, it's been done... Photo courtesy of Dave (the tv channel).
Apparently, it’s been done…
Photo courtesy of Dave (the tv channel).

Except, as I read through these ten things, I found I was kind of underwhelmed. I was expecting (stupidly) an insightful list of things I totally think are a good idea now, that I will regret later. That’s what the title led me to believe. What I got was disappointing common sense, things that aren’t even choices, and a few things that are not so black and white as the article suggests.

1. Wearing a mask to impress others.

Okay, so obviously this refers to pretending to be someone you’re not, and not to literally wearing a mask all the time (unless you’re trying to impress members of the KKK or people who really love gimp suits, obviously). In which case the article is totally right – if you pretend to be something you’re not all the time to impress other people, you’re going to feel shitty. Firstly with exhaustion, and secondly with the realization that no one really knows and respects the real you, which is pretty lonely.

On the other hand, there are times when you should probably put your best face forward, and that might involve a little mask wearing. I doubt anyone has ever regretted showering and acting polite when they felt shit on the inside during a job interview, if you catch my drift.

2. Letting someone else create your dreams for you.

Every sci-fi in history says this is totally a bad idea – not least because people in your head will attack the person fucking your dreams up.

This bitch is going down!
This bitch is going down!

But seriously, living your own life is just common sense. Nothing to see here folks!

3. Keeping negative company

Okay, everyone likes nice people. You should hang out with nice people, people who make you feel good. But this one totally contradicts with things happening later on in that it’s kind of selfish and douchy when you think about it. I mean, nice people aren’t nice all the time – people fluctuate. Don’t give up on your buddy because they were honest with you about that haircut you love but they think is hideous, or because they were a bit mardy with you that day their husband died, or because they don’t want to hang out with you when they’re in the depths of a long depression. Just like you, they have fluctuating moods and personalities and are not perfect all of the time.

4. Being selfish and egotistical

 I donate to charity whenever I can – time and money, I give everything to support causes I care about. Some people would say I have a selfless side; other people would rightly realize that I do get a bit of a kick out of doing good, so some of it is still kind of selfish; other people would say I don’t do enough because I don’t deal in absolutes. I mean, I sleep at night rather than spending all day and all night helping folks, so I’m just not giving enough. The problem with selfishness is that it’s almost entirely decided relatively – as in by comparison between you and some bugger else. So, basically, stop worrying about being “selfish” by other people’s standards and just do what you think is right.

5. Avoiding change and growth

What can I say – some change is good, some not so good. Avoid the good, go for the bad. Wait… that’s the wrong way around!

6. Giving up when the going gets tough

Over the summer I had a shit job. Most of us have been there – it looked okay, and actually it turned out to be a steaming pile of shit. But I stuck it out based on the notion that I shouldn’t just quit because it was crap and thus kinda hard to put up with.

In doing this, I ended up putting up with stuff that no person should ever have to put up with, including but not limited to: four hour daily travel, eight hours without a break, doing everything on my own, sexual harassment (that was ignored), and an unsafe working environment. My nerves now completely shot, I have quit.

Sometimes, you should preserve. Others you should run for the hills. Learn to recognize which is which to avoid regret and unnecessary bullshit.

7. Trying to micromanage every single little thing

This is explained in terrible wishy-washy bullshit in the article (which I find ironic given later advice!), but the principle remains that you can’t manage every aspect of life. Sometimes things just happen and you can only deal with the consequences of it.

8. Settling for less than you deserve

Hold on a minute… the article said don’t be selfish, and yet this involves that very thing! Sometimes in life, this totally applies – if you work a certain number of hours, you deserve a certain amount of pay, for example. If you pass all of your assessments for a qualification, you deserve to be awarded that qualification. If, however, you are nice to a chick that’s a friend, and she doesn’t shag you, you can’t exactly claim you were swindled – no one said you “deserved” that as a reward. So, bear that sort of thing in mind.

9. Endlessly waiting until tomorrow

We’re all going to die! HOLY SHIT WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! And we haven’t got a clue when, it’s true. So while that does mean trying to get the most out of your life, what it doesn’t mean is not making any future plans simply because you can’t be totally sure you’re going to be alive by then. Future plans are still awesome, and some tasks take longer than a day to complete.

[Insert obligatory picture of Rome here]
[Insert obligatory picture of Rome here]

10. Being lazy and wishy-washy

Have you ever spent the day sat in front of the TV? Of course you have, you lazy bastard. There was so much more you could have done that day – maybe you were even thinking that as you watched Jamie and Adam blow the shit out of stuff on Mythbusters. So why didn’t you do it? Are you lazy and unreliable? Are you afraid of taking responsibility for shit?

Or, just maybe, you really needed a fucking rest. Just because you aren’t leaping from buildings or running a marathon every day doesn’t mean you aren’t doing something quite important. Just like sleep, taking a regular break to be lazy is very important. Think of RSI, but for your whole body and brain. Yeah, you can go back to watching Mythbusters in your pants now – do it for the welfare of you, man!

You got to the end!

In which case, you deserve a reward. Like my number one tip for not regretting anything ever? Don’t choose to regret stuff. You aren’t perfect, and shit happens. That, like you, is perfectly okay bro.

10 Things I Will (Not) Regret In Ten Years Time.

Why I effing love to swear!

You might have noticed reading some of my posts, that I swear an awful lot. If you’re thinking “it’s not that bad”, just remember that I’ve probably edited quite a lot of it out of my posts where I’ve noticed it. While I don’t swear as much as some people, I still swear multiple times daily. I don’t recall a day since primary school (yep, really) in which I haven’t sworn at least once.

I’m not swearing from a rebellious place – the man isn’t very fuckable – and I don’t consider myself to have an addiction. I’m not swearing because I’m always angry or miserable either. I swear an awful lot when I’m excited or happy or relieved.

TSM made the LCS finals!
TSM made the LCS finals!

The truth is, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. In fact, I enjoy swearing. Swearing is fun. Swearing is the ultimate expression of feelings and shit, you know? “I love you” pails into insignificance compared to “I fucking love you”, and there’s nothing as amusing as a middle finger between friends. It’s brutally honest, deeply shitting emotional. I just can’t help that think someone who swears when they talk about something is greatly invested in the thing they’re talking about. They aren’t just there because of a paycheck or some shit.

Non-swearers must be baaarmy.
Non-swearers must be baaarmy.

Swearing is also pretty liberating. People are always telling us not to do it. As a woman, I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been told it’s so ‘unattractive’ when a ‘lady’ swears. If anything, it’s more encouraging than discouraging! It’s honesty and expression are liberating, as things we also don’t get to do a great deal either. Swearing is a rejection of the “done thing”. I like that about it.

Plus, swearing might actually be good for you. New research seems to suggest that swearing consistently reduces self-reported pain and your heart-rate, and helps you endure it for longer when going through something considered painful. Although, I must confess, the effect is somewhat greater for infrequent swearers than for Brian Blessed soundalikes like myself. But the fact it exists is good enough for me.

Needless to say, swearing is fucking awesome. Do that shit… just in moderation.

Why I effing love to swear!

Lame anti-bullying “advice”, that we somehow still use

TW: This advice is inaccurate and horrible, and might bring back some nasty memories for anyone who has experienced the horrors of bullying. 

You might have heard the story of the school in Nebraska that sent it’s students home with the following advice on bullying:

"advice"

Wow, well done folks. Keep going and you might be shortlisted for the ‘Jerk of the Year’ awards along with US Airlines.

Obviously, this was a mistake. That’s certainly what they’ve told everyone, anyway, and they have since apologized and issued new advice. But let’s face it, anyone who’s been bullied will have heard this lame-ass advice anyway. Despite knowing full well that literally none of the “rules” on that list actually stops bullying, we just carry on with the general ‘sticks and stones’ mantra. WTF, universe?!

bullied-doge

 

This is something that seriously upsets me. Not only was I bullied, but repeatedly I was subjected to this pathetic pseudo-helpful “advice”. In fact once, when I was 13 and pre-self-harm, I went to tell my teacher – my personal tutor, in fact – about being bullied in school for my sexuality (everyone suspected I was gay, that’s a story for another day). He gave me similar advice about not letting them get to me, ignoring them and such. A couple of days later at my parents evening he even had the cheek to tell my father I was “unbulliable”, such was the fuck that man specifically put in charge of my care did not give.

The main problem with this advice is that it represents just that – it reeks of ‘put up and shut up kid, because it’s not our responsibility, and damn it you probably deserve it‘. It’s not dramatic of me to say so – it’s all summed up explicitly in the last three so-called “rules”:

Rule #7: Do not tell on bullies. The number one reason bullies hate their victims, is because the victims tell on them. Telling makes the bully want to retaliate. Tell an adult only when a real injury or crime (theft of something valuable) has occurred. Would we keep our friends if we tattled on them?

Rule #8: Don’t be a sore loser.

Rule #9: Learn to laugh at yourself and not get “hooked” by put-downs. Make a joke out of it or agree with the put-down. For example: “If you think I’m ugly, you should see my sister!”

Loving number 9 – bully your sister, kids, on the off-chance that by ruining the reputation of your sibling and destroying your relationship, you might, just might, stop being bullied. Lovely.

Seriously though, this advice assumes automatically that you have done something to offend the bully, so you totally deserve to be bullied. Maybe you “tattled”, or it’s your sense of humour. Maybe it’s the way you dress, or talk, or walk. Maybe it’s your family. Maybe it’s your gender, or your sexuality. Hey, whatever, kid. You must suffer the consequences of being different. Including, but not limited to, the intense and wide-ranging physical and psychological effects of being bullied.  It just isn’t our concern.

It’s so easy to pass the buck if you pin all the blame on the kids being bullied…

Except we all know the responsibility for bullying lies with the perpetrator, not the victim. Blaming the victims is only going to reinforce this as a viable option in response to whatever shit the bully is going through. Is this really the only plan we’ve got in dealing with bullying – messing up a whole bunch of kids lives because we can’t be bothered to get our hands fucking dirty? It seems so obvious to me that we should try to help the damn people involved, including the bullies.

Before you weep for humanity though, guys, there are two things you have to remember. The first is that there’s people like this guy in the world. The second, is that you can still change these things. Get involved campaigning against bullying, teach your kids or your friend’s kids or whoever about it. Call people up on the stupid advice they’re giving if you overhear this rubbish. Do things.

Don’t let bullying win.

 

 

Lame anti-bullying “advice”, that we somehow still use

On childhood romances

I happened to notice the daily prompt today, on what attracted people to their significant other. It got me thinking – not about what attracted me to Joe so much (because I don’t have a billion years to talk about how awesome that guy is!), but actually about something I was discussing with my siblings the other day.

We were talking about childhood romances (well, more teenage for me), specifically about how those shape who we end up being, romantically, and why we entered into them. It was an interesting debate, especially since I am renowned for just having the worst relationships in adolescence. Yet, in a messed up way, I wouldn’t undo a single one of those.

But I digress!

My first relationship – at least the first that I remember – was when I was 13, with a guy called John. We’d been friends for a while, and eventually he asked me out. At first my reaction was oh hell no, boys are SO icky! 

Eventually though, I took him up on the offer – because even though I wasn’t really into him that way, I was certain I probably would be, if I gave it a go. I felt pressured into having a boyfriend, in part by my friends, and mostly by the homophobic bullying I’d been receiving. What better way to prove to everyone, even myself, that I was actually heterosexual? (Which you want to be when you’re 13 and being bullied. Trust me!)

Months went past, and the bullying didn’t stop. Neither did my feelings towards my same-sex friend, who I’d developed the hugest crush on. But I did care about John, I did have a soft spot for him. He was my defense against the bullying, for starters; I could tell myself they were wrong while ever I was with him. Plus it was nice to have someone around, for a bit of a cuddle and a chat when things were rough – which was every single day at school. He was a bit of an arse, in retrospect, and he wasn’t ‘me’ at all, but he was at least around when I needed him.

Except that time he cheated on me and we broke up. Then he was on their side, telling the whole school I was totally a lesbian. Thanks, John.

After a while, ‘Ben’ came to fill the friend-shaped hole left by John. We weren’t a couple, we were just good friends – he was there for me at the onset of all my mental health problems, and he did make an effort to understand. That didn’t really work out either, as I’m sure you read in the last post! But at least when he asked me to marry him, I knew two very distinct things: he wasn’t my type, and I wasn’t into marriage. That’s valuable information right there.

I had another boyfriend – we got together just as ‘Ben’ and I had our bust-up – and he was a total jerk. He physically pushed me to get his own way (often into things, which hurt like hell), and put enormous emotional pressure on me. He didn’t last long. I built up the courage and ended it as soon as possible – which taught me that I can be courageous and strong when I want to be, and that I’m not the kind of person to put up with other people’s shit. It also taught me that just about anyone can end up in a bad relationship. Guys like him seem wonderful, but under the surface they are actually abusive. I think that made me a bit more compassionate and understanding with other people.

So then I finally plucked up the courage, and dated the girl I’d liked forever. It was actually pretty amazing! I was completely infatuated, at the time; perhaps we weren’t so infatuated with each other as we were with knowing and accepting who we were. While in the end we were too incompatible to make it, I learnt yet another valuable lesson from the experience. I liked girls, and there was nothing wrong with that.

After *quite* a long time, I met Joe and loved him instantly, and we’ve been together since then. He’s so cool. He’s changed me too – in lots of little awesome ways!

But the point is, I took away some important messages from these life experiences – about who I find romantically attractive, and who I don’t; about what I want out of life, and what I don’t; about who I am and what I’m capable of. The people I dated sucked at the time (can’t really blame some of them, they were young and stupid), but they taught me some valuable stuff about me, and shaped the kind of person I am today to an extent. For that you kind of have to thank them.

On childhood romances