Toddler to Teen (with Nothing in Between)

Okay, I may be having a concerned middle aged mother moment here, but what’s happening to children? Why do they seem to go from nursery to nightclubs, avoiding the whole phase called, you know, childhood?

When I was a child (still am according to the Translink bus drivers, half price fare thankU), I came home from school, played with my cheap knockoff Tamagotchi, went outside and played the ultimate sport that is Kirby and rang my mates on their landline. We all knew each other’s home numbers off by heart and would sit and talk until our fish fingers were ready, or our ma needed to use the internet – shoutout to dial-up.

These bad boys were the OG Nintendogs

I used to call for my friends, “is Sarah coming out?”; “The street’s playing rounders do you wanna come?” and we’d run about, play ‘rap a door run away’, ride Flickrs and be home by 9 o’clock. We went out in the street nearly every day, except when we weren’t allowed out because we had to do our homework, or were grounded. Yeah, grounding was still a thing.

We’d go into town on a Saturday. That was literally the outing. We’d go in, paddle about, go to New Look to try on high heels, take photos in clothes we were never gonna buy, do peace signs non-ironically and go to KFC.

Us getting our photos taken in River Island

But now, things are so different. Children don’t seem to act like children anymore. Primary school children are using iPhones and social media – 8 year olds are following me on Instagram. 8 YEAR OLDS. Children don’t go through horrible fringe, “nobody understands me” or experimental eyeliner phases anymore. They do makeup better than I do (not that that’s hard), have actual relationships – not fake boyfriends you met on Omegle – and go to playgrounds to drink, rather than “play“. Rather than children and teenagers, it seems to be teenagers and like, shorter teenagers.

This is why I’m so glad I grew up when I did, had the childhood that I had and acted my age. Looking back at my behaviour until I was about 15 actually makes me cringe and question why I had friends. I was a weirdo. But we were all ‘weirdos’. Us being weird was us acting normal. We have scundering photographic evidence that we use for blackmail, and sit laughing and shuddering at the way we got on. Do I regret the way I was? Yeah. Would I do it again if I had a do-over? Definitely.

Me after receiving said blackmail material

I wouldn’t want to look back as an adult and not be able to identify when I actually became one. 13 year olds shouldn’t be acting 18. They shouldn’t want to. Being an adult isn’t fun – we have to pay tax. TAX. (Unless you’re rich of course, and then apparently you don’t have to). And pay twice as much for transport and cinema tickets. Ew.

Yes, I always wanted to be 18, and to be honest, I still do – if I could stop aging that would be GREAT. But I always failed (and still do) to act and look like an 18 year old. But now, 12 year olds actually do pull off being 18. They look older than me, are taller than me (there’s definitely something in the water) and are more active online than me.

But I’m glad I didn’t grow up in a time when smartphones, likes and appearance were my priorities. They weren’t even in my radar. I ran about with friends, literally ran about. Outside. The only social media I had was Bebo and I wasn’t even allowed it so had to make it on my friend’s laptop and could only use it at her house. I joined the school computer club purely so I could use MSN to talk to my friends. We literally emailed each other. But in pink text. That was the extent of my online activity – that and a weird internal school “social media” called SuperClubs which NOBODY ELSE seems to remember but I definitely didn’t make up. Someone please back me up on this.

The OG Facebook messenger

I had 0 cares or worries, besides that boy finding out I fancied him or how my side fringe looked. I lived in a bubble, with no exposure to the scary thing that is the real world. Children these days are able to see so much online, stuff they shouldn’t be seeing – stuff no one should really be seeing. The internet’s full of harmful and dangerous things that children can easily stumble upon. Things that are affecting how they see themselves and the “real” world. They’re comparing themselves to Instagram lifestyles and models, because that’s what they see. So that must be what life’s meant to be like, right? But it’s filtered, fake and 90% of the time, it’s paid for.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not children’s fault, they can’t help it. It’s the world they’re growing up in. What are they meant to do, stop using their phones and isolate themselves from their friends? Play outside alone? Rebirth themselves 10 years earlier? Ugh, imagine.

I don’t know if it’ll change. I don’t really see how it could. And that’s sad. We seem to be living in a world with just babies, adults and the elderly. More and more people are born every year, but we seem to have less and less children with each of them.

Children should be children. They should want to be children. Childhood is the best experience of your life. And it’s not fair if they don’t get to experience it.

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Taken

You’re born into a family. A poor family. They struggle to make ends meet, but they get by.

A rich family from another town come along and decide that they want to adopt you. They want you, not your brother or sister, just you. They don’t really care about you or want to help you, it’s about power. They want to show that they’re better than your family. It’s what they do. They go to different towns and do the same to other children. They want to show that they can take what they want because they have the power. Money always has the power.

Your family don’t want to give you up, but the rich family come with lawyers and papers and a legal battle that your family can’t afford to win. They aren’t able to fight them off and keep you.

So, you grow up in the rich family. But you’re never really a part of it. Your adopted parents don’t pay you much attention, and God knows your new brother doesn’t like you. He doesn’t want you in his house, you’re a burden. You should go home. Where you belong. But that’s where you were when they took you. You were home and you were happy. They adopted you but didn’t want you. They treat you with hostility and disdain. You get money, yes. You get clothes, yes. You get things your own family couldn’t give you. But it’s still not “home”. You talk like them, you dress like them. But you’re still not one of them.

When they take you home they rename you, to take away your identity and ties to your real family. They can do this, you see. They have the power to do so. You’re called by this name, but you don’t answer to it. You correct people when they say it. Because it’s not your name. It never will be.

As you grow up, you revisit your old town. You see your family and friends. You’re happy to see them, you missed them, you want to be with them. But for some reason they don’t feel the same. You’re not one of them anymore. You don’t dress like them, or talk like them. You’re an outsider. What are you doing here? You’re a traitor. You’re one of “them” now, so go be with them. But you didn’t choose to be one of “them”. They took you. You had no choice.

Your adopted family couldn’t be bothered with you anymore, all you do is cost them money and you don’t give them much in return. You were a waste of an investment really. Your real family could try to get you back now, it’s been a long time and they have more money. But it seems like they don’t really want you back now. It seems like they’ve moved on. They’ve learned to live without you. They can sustain themselves. Your old town is different than it was, you see. People are no longer poor. They’re wealthier and happier and the rich families don’t come around anymore, thank God. They haven’t been around in a while. The rich families aren’t nice. So you aren’t nice.

So, what do you do? You’re living with a family who don’t like you. They mock people like you, like your real family and from your old town. They make jokes, dress up, they attack people like them. You hate it. You try to stop them, tell them it’s wrong. But, if you don’t like it, go home, you’re told. Go back with these families because it’s where you belong.

But where do you belong? You’re not happy with the rich and they’re not happy with you. But you can’t go back to your real family because you’re not welcome there either. It’s too late now to go back. You tried and tried when you were younger, put up numerous fights. But what’s the point if don’t want you anyway? You spend your whole life trying to make them see that you want to be with them, you never wanted to be taken away, you had no choice.

But one day they’ll see. One day they’ll realise how desperately you fight and have fought to be back with them. The rich have less control now, they can’t own you forever. Maybe in a few years, when you’re 18. There’s a court case then. Your family can decide if they want you back. You’ll always be one of them at heart. You never changed. You dress differently, you talk differently, but you act the same. You’re still the you that was taken away. Your old family may not know who you are, and your new family may not either. But you do. You know where you belong and that’s home. Home is Ireland, and you are the north.

iSpy

Well, it’s no secret that we don’t exactly have complete control over our personal data. Geotags and photos of where we are, what we’re doing, who we’re with – it’s all over social media. Sadly, we just sort of accept that whatever we do online isn’t private.

We’ve all experienced those creepy ads – you know the ones where you say/ type something and then later on an ad for that exact product pops up? No, sadly it’s not a “spooky coincidence”, it’s good old data monitoring and collection. A lot less fun.

Although, no matter how many times I say “Go away Mark Zuckerburg” into my mic, I’m still bombarded with “suggestions”, so maybe they’re not listening as closely as I thought. Hmm.

Oh but of course, this is done to benefit us consumers by effectively marketing goods we might be interested in. But if this is so “effective” then why suggest that I buy things that I’VE JUST BOUGHT? “We thought you might like…” Well yes that’s great intel and very insightful of you to pick that up from my completing the purchase.

Companies also market using things like your location as being of benefit to you -because them knowing where you are is of course of no interest to them and only works in your favour. It lets them give you a “more tailored and relevant user experience” – even though most users will see the same content regardless of where they are. Go ahead, have my location if you need it, I’m probably just in my house anyway. Use it if it changes what content I see or what options are available to me; but don’t tell me that you need it to provide a “user-defined” experience when it’s mostly for you to gauge the geo-demographics of your customers.

Agent tracking my location waiting for me to leave my house

These days, there’s an increasing amount of new “smart” technologies which, as well as reducing the need for us to do physically do things (god forbid having to actually get up and turn on the big light) also gives away some access and control to our homes and systems.

Here’s some examples:

Alexa/ Google home – I don’t even know what the point of these are apart from to play music and spontaneously laugh

Smart TVs – because using a zapper to change channels is just too much. Oh but they can also make the screen match your wallpaper, because being able to see your appliances is SO 2008.

Smart homesthe government you can control things like your alarms, heating and electricity from your phone; like that ad where the dad turns on the lights in his wee girl’s room from his smart-watch while he’s in Antarctica. Yep, that’s a thing. Apparently.

Doorbell cameras – presumably so you can avoid your Avon representative and catch those hooligans playing “rap a door run away”. I knew it was you, Jamie. I’m telling your ma, you little twirp.

Me phoning Jamie’s ma

Baby monitors for your house (not the technical term I’m guessing) – so you can keep an eye on your house when you’re not home and make sure your pet’s not wrecking the place. Not that you seeing it will stop it happening, but at least you’ll get to helplessly watch your door frames being mauled. That really does give you “peace of mind”. It also lets the government and other third parties have a wee look and see what’s going on in your house, maybe get some decor ideas. I do like those grey curtains, Susie. Very mod.

So, we know our personal data is being collected and monitored, so what do we do? Campaign? Complain? Avoid disclosing personal information? Nah. We make memes. We literally joke and take the mickey about the government spying on us. What a world.

Now, I’m not saying that the government or other parties are using these ways to control our lives or anything ~ don’t worry, I’m not that paranoid. I mean, I think the government and the people of Airtricity have better things to do than mess about with our heating or turn our lights on and off. But what happens if unauthorised parties intercept these systems, and hack their way into our houses? We know it can be done – I’ve seen CSI.

These smart homes are meant to make us feel more “at ease” and secure because we can keep an eye on things, but I’d feel a lot more “at ease” and secure if there wasn’t potentially someone watching my house, than knowing that my dog didn’t tear my couch apart.

It just scares me that not only do people give away this control and information, but we accept it and don’t seem to care. That’s not normal. I don’t want to feel like I’m on ‘Love Island’, ‘Big Brother’ or some other trashy reality show. I just want to sing really loudly when I’ve the house to myself and not be afraid someone’s listening. I want to bust a move without an audience. Keep my house mine. Well, my parents’, but still.

New Year, Slightly Improved Me

Well, it’s that time again. You know the one, where everyone decides that after 25 years, they’re going to change basically everything about themselves and how they live their lives? Not that I’m cynical or anything. I’m sure this really IS the year you’ll start yoga and veganism, Becky. Not that I can judge, I did spend £40 on a journal in the hopes that it’d fix my life.

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Anyway. To get in the spirit of things, here’s some of my new year resolutions. Now, why am I posting this a week into the year you ask? Well, good question dear sir. I’ve decided to post this now for a few reasons: 1) I haven’t actually had the time to write the past week so this is the first chance I’m getting, and 2) I wanted to try out some resolutions before publicly declaring what they were, so I could scrap the failed ones and pretend I never attempted them 🙂

I don’t expect these to magically transform my life and make it all ‘Ferris Beuler’s Day Off’ parade-scene-like, but maybe it’ll make it a wee bit better. Note: Before you think I’m not attempting much, I’m actually doing lil technique called ‘aim low and avoid disappoint’ that I’ve been perfecting for the past 21 years. See, there’s a difference between simple, and deceptively simple, my friend.

1) Join the gym.

HA, syke. Not gonna set myself up disappointment, am I?

1) Be more positive*.

Does what it says on the tin, really. I’m just going to try to ignore the big ugly clouds, and focus on the nice sparkly lining around it. Like a magpie. ‘Think like a magpie’, hmm, I like the sound of that actually.

*I can confirm that I did try this last week but had to admit defeat after life just pushed me a wee bit too far (cheers world). BUT I will definitely try to keep this up. Gonna keep thinkin’ like a magpie.

2) Make the most of final year

This doesn’t really come into effect until September, which buys me some time. Because I’m on placement, I now have a newfound appreciation for freedom university life. I miss lunch dates and lie ins learning and expanding my mind 🙂 and just having a good damn time. So in final year, I’m just going to ignore the fact that I have finals, a dissertation and £15,000 of debt, and focus on the positives and freedom I have before going back to working full-time. What could possibly go wrong?

Edit: I also need to make the most out of my final year of student discount. The uni fees have basically paid for themselves with the amount I’ve saved. Probably.
3) Seize every opportunity

Gonna carpe the ole’ diem. Basically say ‘yes’ to more (things that I want to do) and ask “why not?” rhetorically. I want to seize opportunities like England seized the 6 counties. All too many times we pass on things that we may never get the chance to do again. Got a friend living abroad? Go visit them. Cheap tickets? Buy ’em. 20% student discount? Fill your boots.
4) Travel more

Because I only had 2 weeks of summer before starting work, I didn’t really get a summer holiday, and haven’t had the same opportunities to go away that I did at uni. So I’m determined to get away every chance I can get. I miss plastering myself in Factor 50 suncream and spending all day searching for shade. I miss having to point at menus and say “I’m not from here” with pleaing eyes and GAA jerseys. I miss getting up at 4am for a 2pm flight and paying £2.80 for a cup of tea. Ah, those were the glory days.
5) Cut down on single use plastics

This is an important one. I want to become more environmentally aware and make more lifestyle changes and swaps to help the Earth. Thankfully, a lot of companies are starting to make changes like swapping to paper alternatives or removing plastic packaging which makes it easier for me to do so. Well what’s the point trying to improve your life if you don’t have a planet to live it on?
6) Think less

Oh how big headed of me. I am the modern day Einstein and I want to be more like the common man. Basically I want to stop overthinking and worrying about things. A simple life is a happy life, there’s no need to scrutinise and analyse every little thing. I just want to be more easy going and laid back about life in general. If it works, it works. And if it doesn’t, well it doesn’t. Build a bridge and get over it. Move on.

7) Wear skirts casually.

I’ve tried this one for the past 3 years and it has never once happened. I’m just going to let it go. Just stick to trousers, Niamh.

7) Blog more

Off to a great start as you can see. I do really enjoy blogging, but I admit when I’m really tired at the end of the day, I sometimes can’t bring myself to write. Last year I’d just type them up on my phone when I’d time to spare, and come up with ideas regularly so that I was never stuck for something to write. But life got in the way and I got out of the habit of it, so I’m going to pick it back up again.

8) Be happppppppy

I don’t care what I’m doing, who it’s with or where it is. As long as I’m happy doing it. This year, I want to be more happy and generally content with myself, my life and my situation, whatever that it. I have no idea where I’ll end up or what I’ll be doing, but I’m determined to just smile and enjoy the ride. If I’m going to have to get old and have wrinkles, they better be laughter lines and not frown ones.

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There ya go, nothing groundbreaking but I think they’re achievable enough anyway. Just don’t check up on me in December to see how I’m getting on with them. Thanks.

How Social Media Has Helped Empower Women

Here we are again. Social media. Most of us have it, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn, Bebo (ah, those were the days). The list goes on. We rely and depend it on really on a daily basis, with so many of us glued to our phones. What did we ever do without it? TALK to each other? Perish the thought.

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Social media hasn’t just provided us with ways to connect with new people and interact with friends and families no matter when or where they are. It hasn’t just enabled the government to collect an abundance of personal data and keep tabs on where we are, who we’re with and what we’re doing. It hasn’t just given us ways to stalk our exes and judge their new partners. It’s also given women platforms and opportunities which have helped empower them, enabling them to speak up and be heard. Or ‘read’, rather.

Social media gives women a channel to speak out about their personal experiences and share them with others. From something trivial like what they ate for breakfast (who honestly cares?) to more pressing issues like their experience on the train that morning. That last one wasn’t a sarcastic comment (for once). Women are sexually assaulted on public transport on an alarming and disturbing scale. So much so that the British Transport Police have launched a TV campaign urging women to report it.

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Hashtags such as #TimesUp, #WhenIWas and #MeToo among others have provided women with a channel to speak up and share their sexual assault experiences. Women share things that they have kept built up for months, years, decades without telling anyone. So why are they tweeting about it?

Everyone has their own reasons, to generalise would be unfair. But here are a few common ones:

1) They feel as though they have a voice and their story is heard

2) It’s easier to type than say face-to-face. We’re all guilty of resorting to messaging rather than doing something in person, because you can to some degree reduce confrontation, embarrassment, and rejection.

3) The audience.

4) There’s a degree of anonymity which gives extra confidence and reduces potential embarrassment or fear.

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This was the least creepy ‘being anonymous online’ photo I could find

If you’re going to report an incident to someone, who do you go to? Your friend? Family? What are they going to do? They can’t (legally) punish the perpetrator. So, go to the police? What if they don’t believe you? Do you have evidence? Witness statements? Did you somehow manage to capture this on video? A signed confession and DNA samples? No? Oh. Well, then, hmm, that’s tough. How do you know you’ve told the right person? What if you haven’t, will the message be passed on?

Few women report incidences of sexual, physical, or emotional/psychological abuse. Sadly, the criminal justice system has failed so many of these. What do you do when you’re not being listened to and being ignored by those supposed to help you? Go elsewhere. So we go online. We tweet about. We tell everyone. Maybe we’ll be listened to when the problem is so big that it can’t be ignored. Do you think one woman coming forward inspired a national campaign about sexual assault on public transport? Sadly, the police want numbers. They want ‘big’ numbers. How many women have posted their experiences online? How many of them do you think would go to a police station and report it there? In person, a woman can speak about her problem. But thanks to social media, women, as a collective group, can shout about it.

Now just say the police do choose to ignore this (imagine that !!), even though they do have a ‘big’ number and evidence. Do you think Twitter can ignore it just as easily? These admissions are liked, favourited, retweeted and shared. Most likely millions of people have seen at least one of these entries. We all know that once something is online, it’s there forever (dun dun dun). Yes, that goes for those photos of you when you went through your ‘nobody understands me’ goth phase. And your full fringe phase *shudders* – don’t worry, we all had one.

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Why stop one perpetrator and try to change their behaviour, when you can try to stop and change the behaviour of a whole society? Social media is making a massive audience aware of these issues and incidents which have sadly become normalised, and a taboo. It gives a glimpse into others’ lives and what lets us understand and get an idea of things we may have had no idea even happened.

Being able to share these stories means that women can see that they’re not alone. Which, in a way is sad because it shows the scale of how many people are subjected to such horrendous behaviour, and how often it happens. Women can find support and reassurance from total strangers, people who have absolutely no loyalty to them. You know if you tell your best friend something that they’re going to have your back; so having strangers treat you this way is in a way more reassuring because they’re less likely to comfort or support you if it’s undeserved.

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So, despite the issues and negative impact social media has had on women in today’s society, some good has come of it. Good in the form of empowerment. Women have spent too long being silenced, so post a photo of your breakfast, take your duck-face selfies, share your experiences. You go gurl. *sassy click*

From Oranges to Apple – What Happened Christmas?

I’m not tryna be a Grinch or rain on anyone’s snowman here, God knows I love Christmas more than Buddy from Elf, but what happened the good old days of getting a stocking full of satsumas for Christmas? How and why has Christmas become so commercialised? Like I’m all for presents and all, don’t get me wrong, but I really do think that the focus on material possessions has gotten out of hand.

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Exhibit A

I just think Christmas isn’t about what it’s meant to be about anymore. I don’t mean Jesus being born all the religious stuff either (sorry ma), I mean family. I mean Mariah Carey. I mean sitting around table with 12 different bowls of food -around 6 of which are various forms of potatoes. I mean pulling crackers and huffing when you didn’t win ~because your opponent was DEFINITELY cheating and held the handle too far up~ and eyeing up their mini screwdrivers or money clip with envy. Not that you’d have used it anyway, but that was your crappy “prize” to bin and your embarrassingly bad punchline to read out.

Christmas to me is about spending the day with family. It’s about slaving away in the kitchen for hours for a meal which is vacced down in about 15 minutes; followed by slaving away in the kitchen for hours doing dishes for the 17 saucepans and 9 of each cutlery even though there were only 6 of you eating.

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We don’t have a dishwasher either. I cry.

I don’t know when it stopped being about this and started being a competition of who got the most stuff. Christmas has always been somewhat commericalised of course, with a massive focus on spending money and buying gifts, but I think that it’s really starting to get a bit ridiculous. 89% of shift workers said they’re afraid that they can’t afford Christmas. Like how is that even a thing? How can you not afford a holiday? No one says they can’t afford Halloween or Easter, so what the hell happened? What have we, as a society done to this holiday?

Christmas is meant to be about excitement and happiness, not fear, dread and panic. So many people spend money they don’t have on things they can’t afford, and for what? Payday loans and buying with credit aren’t the answer, or the solution. If you can’t afford these things right now, then how will you be able to afford them with the 879% interest on top of it?

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Christmas seems to have become a sort of competition among children of “whose parents love them more” and among parents of “who loves their children more”. Asking friends “what did you get?” not so much because they care, but to mentally compare it to what they got. I don’t know why or when it started getting like this, but I do think social media has a big part to play. Before, people didn’t see what you got for Christmas, but now, anyone can see it if it’s posted online. Which a lot of people seem to insist on doing. Even though no one asked to see what they got. But sure.

I honestly hate the whole saga of *opens presents* *arranges presents on couch* *takes photo* “Thanks mum and dad, you’re the best❤” *ignores parents the rest of the day and sits on their phone checking what everyone else got*. Posting all this on social media to me just seems like a way to make others feel jealous and bad about themselves.

Like, no harm, but no one cares what you got. You got a £500 phone? Okay cool. Ridiculous for something that will break if you even so much as give the screen a dirty look, but cool. You got £50 phone? Just as cool.

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People post photos of their presents and their makeup and outfits, and their Christmas dinners. Thanks to Snapchat and Instagram stories, everyone now plays a little “judge everyone’s Christmas dinner” game. Like WHY do you have Yorkshire puddings, catch yourself on. Dinner at 8pm? Really? Anyway, I see loads of posts about dinners and presents but hardly any of families.

Children are demanding, no question about it. They don’t understand the concept of money and expense because they never really have to worry about these things. So of course they’re going to write massive Christmas lists and ask for an abundance of stuff, because they think it’s free. Christmas for me changed a lot when I stopped believing in Santa, because I realised that there actually was a price attached to what I wanted.

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I don’t blame her, squirrels are CLASS

Parents feel enough pressure to make their children happy, without having to worry about spending an obscene amount of money on them for one day. “S/he wants it” or “it’ll make them happy”. And that’s concerning in itself. The only way you can make your child happy is to spend money on them? Ya know what makes people happy? Hugs. Hugs are FREE. Conversations are FREE. Support is FREE. The only things I really want that aren’t free are the 6 counties, but not even Santa can get me those.

But it’s not all the children’s fault, parents need to learn to set expectations and say no. You don’t have to buy your child everything they want, because that’s not realistic, or financially viable. I think that if children knew how much stress and pressure their parents were under to buy them things, they’d ask for less. Well, I hope they would. I’m not saying parents should tell their children they can’t have anything, I’m just saying they don’t have to have everything. If you buy one of your children a car for Christmas, then of course in a few years your other child is going to demand expect the same. Children ask for things based on what they normally get. If you spent £100 on presents one year, they wouldn’t expect £1000’s worth the next. So I think it’s important to set a reasonable limit on their presents.

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So yeah, there you go. You can now continue to support capitalism and commercialise the birth of a religious figurehead buy presents. Ho ho ho.

How to Act: A Girl’s Guide

Well, here are we again. A sequel to my How to Dress: A Girl’s Guide. I’d say it’s due to popular demand, but really I just have a lot of built-up feelings on the matter. This ‘guide’ is about how girls should act and behave. After all, there’s no point looking the part if you can’t play it, right? So, grab your notebook and a pen, and get ready for some valuable little tips and lessons.

 

General Behaviour:

Bat your eyes at any opportunity. It keeps your eyes clear of dirt and makes you look endearing. Not too much though, you don’t want to look like you’re having a spasm or twitch.

Smile. At all times. If your face doesn’t hurt you’re not smiling hard enough. Imagine you’ve got string attached to the corners of your mouth which is being pulled. In serious or sadder situations, ‘smize’ (smile with your eyes), because you should always appear bright and lively.

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Don’t show extreme emotions. You must remain calm and collected at all times. If you get angry, you’ll be considered a ‘bitch’; if you’re crying, you’ll only make those around you uncomfortable. If you’re too happy or excited, you’ll be considered loud and “in your face”. In case of emergencies when you accidentally let your emotions get the better of you (rookie mistake), blame it on hormones. Or your period.

Act ditzy. Men think it’s cute, and you seem more fun. Not too ditzy though, or you’ll be called an ‘airhead’. If you happen to be blonde, brace yourself for some really great jokes coming your way. In the rare case that you are in fact smart, don’t let people know. It’s emasculating and belittling. Why would you want to lower others’ self esteem? Don’t correct others if they’re wrong, either – it’s embarrassing for them. Besides, nobody likes a ‘know-it-all’.

 

Speaking:

Don’t raise your voice. This is sort of a mute point because you’ll only speak when spoken to, so you’ll be given adequate time to respond. If you’re not given an opportunity to respond, then your input clearly isn’t wanted.

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Don’t question anything. It only undermines people, you wouldn’t want to do that now, would you? The only questions you should ask are: “What?”, “Can you help me?”, “What do you want for dinner?”and “How was work, honey?”

Always support your partner’s ideas. Tell him that remortgaging the house to invest in capital bonds is a great idea. Why would you want to make him sad? Besides, I hear “Brexit” is doing wonders for the economy, so it could be a great time to invest.

Laugh at your own expense. If you make a mistake (which you likely will, you are a woman after all), the best way to recover is to make a little joke blaming it on your gender. Some favourites which never fail are: “Well, that’s what happens when you let me out of the kitchen!”, “I should’ve stuck to making sandwiches!” or “Too busy thinking about shoes!” If you make a mistake at work, don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re getting paid 18% less than your male colleagues, so less is expected of you anyway.

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Physical Behaviour:

Cross your legs. Always sit with your legs crossed. Don’t ask why, you just do. You get used to the knee pain.

Don’t open doors. Stand outside and wait until someone else comes along and opens it for you. Don’t you know that doors are heavy? You could snap your little elbows.

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Look at this smart gal patiently waiting to get into work

Don’t carry heavy items, wait for someone to help you. It’s not safe, and men feel more masculine when they have to help. Plus, you could end up breaking a nail, yikes.

Don’t drive. You’ll be a horrible driver. You can’t parallel park and you’ll only spend the whole time looking at yourself in that wee mirror. Plus, airbags will take all your lovely makeup clean off your face. Now, wouldn’t that be a shame?

-Sidenote: There’s an impressive amount of stock images there are of women doing this. These are just my faves. And the few without ‘Shutterstock’ plastered all over them.

Ignore unwanted physical contact. Don’t confront others, they might harm you. It’s better to keep your head down, say nothing and walk away. You could report it, but would you want to get someone in trouble over a bit of miscommunication?

 

Work:

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Bangin’ tune, dontcha think?

Earn less than your partner – do not become more professionally successful. This means not applying for promotions or jobs which require qualifications. Not that you should have any qualifications. Better yet, don’t get a job. The home won’t make itself after all.

Don’t ask for a pay rise. You would get paid more if you deserved it. The fact you’re even allowed to work is privilege, don’t be ungrateful.

Don’t go for promotions either. You’ll never be picked as your male colleagues are much more qualified and better suited. You’d only be wasting your employer’s and colleagues’ time. Just get a job where there are no career building opportunities, problem solved.

 

Home (where you belong):

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Keep the house clean and tidy. Well nobody likes mess, silly.

Be maternal. You should be able to stop a crying child within 3 seconds. You must of course want children, a career is no goal for any sane lady. Your body was made to procreate and give life. It would be sinful to waste this.

Make a continental breakfast every morning. Ensure you have croissants, fruit salad, pancakes and orange juice ready on the table. Your family will only ever ignore these and have a piece of toast on their way out, but isn’t it nice to have choice? It’s not like you have anything else to be at anyway.

 

Eating Out:

Choose your food carefully. If you order something fatty or calorific, people will pull faces and make comments like “I like a girl that can eat” which makes it seem like you shouldn’t be ordering it. But, if you order something healthy like a salad, people will pull faces and pass comments about how it’s “rabbit food”. You can’t win, really. It’s safer to stay at home. I’m sure you make a lovely roast, anyway.

Which reminds me, don’t order “the chips”. You may want chips, but if you order them, people will say things like “Oh, you’re having chips?” “Cheat day today then?” “How many syns is that?”, order something else, like the salad. And have a few of your companions chips. I’m sure they won’t mind.

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Oh. Maybe they will..

 

There you go, folks. Now you know how to act like a proper lady! These are basically some of the things that women spend their whole lives being told. Think I’m being dramatic? Well I don’t. Then again, I’ve grown up seeing these ‘rules’ everywhere, so I don’t really notice them anymore.

 

Has Social Media Made Us Anti-Social?

We’ve all heard older generations saying that nowadays, young people are anti-social and “nobody talks to each other anymore” or “they’re always on their phones”. True, we do use phones and the internet a lot more; especially for social media. But is social media really, well, ‘social’?

Yes, and no -agreeing to both means I can’t be wrong, right?

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People don’t talk to strangers on buses or trains as much as they used to. Yes, there’s the occasional chat about the weather or how bad the transport system is and how pointless the new Gliders are- they don’t even glide? They just roll slowly. Anyway, if I’m using my phone on public transport, I’m normally on social media, talking to people (how popular am I?!). So yes, I may not be speaking, but I’m still talking. If there’s no one I know beside me, then how much would I really be socialising otherwise?

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Here’s where I draw the line. There’s few things I hate more than when you’re out with someone and they just sit on their phone instead of talking to you. I personally think choosing virtual social interaction over personal social interaction is rude and antisocial, like am I not enough craic for you? Who could POSSIBLY be more entertaining and funny than me? Give me attention, damn. Unless you’re about to show me your new boo or a funny meme, put the phone away with you’re with me, cheers.

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Some people may choose to be ‘antisocial’ because they aren’t comfortable in social situations, or don’t have the confidence to speak to others, and so dodge social interaction instead. Sort of like the way you do everything you can to avoid phone calls, but with actual talking. Others may find themselves being accidentally ‘antisocial’ because although they’d like to make friends and socialise, they don’t really have the social skills or know how to or. Social media has enabled these people to talk and socialise without having to experience the personal interaction. It’s also meant that they don’t have to reply instantly, they can sit and think about what to say next if they find themselves unsure. They’re able to practise having conversations, so that they’re more comfortable when they do have face-to-face interactions. So I think social media is really good at helping improve some people’s social skills and enabling them to build relationships that they may never have had in the ‘real world’.

Although, this is only well and good if people take these skills and put them to use in the ‘real world’ to build personal relationships. But some people become reliant on online relationships and choose these over personal ones can then isolate themselves further, because they think “I have friends online, so I don’t need friends in person”. This leads to people becoming recluses, and so they don’t experience many human or social interactions. Which means that they’re more uncomfortable and awkward when they do have these interactions. So they avoid them. And this goes on and on and on.

Do you see why I said “Yes, and no” at the start now?

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What a lucky gal

Social media gives us access to people we’d otherwise never meet- admittedly, some we’d rather we didn’t (@ 90% of people on Tinder), but that’s not the point. People are less restricted to who or how many people they can talk to. I mean why would you want to deprive anyone of having the chance to talk to me? It just doesn’t seem fair that people should have to miss out on this.

A lot of relationships now start online. Be it reconnecting with old friends on Facebook, sliding in someone’s DMs on Instagram, or the gift that just keeps on giving that is online dating apps like Tinder. Brilliant. People are meeting and falling in love with people they wouldn’t have met in a bar, or sat beside on a plane (one day this will happen me, just wait and see) or in a department store when reaching for the exact same pair of gloves. So I watch a lot of romcoms? Sue me. Dare you.

So yeah, social media is actually pretty damn good in my opinion at meeting new people and potential baes, if of course you ignore all the weirdos and catfish and bad experiences. But sure, they just make for great stories, eh? Eh?

I couldn’t choose which photo was funnier so I had to include all 3. Stock photos are so tragic sometimes.

We can keep in touch with family and friends abroad or on holidays. My sister lived in Korea for a year (I will never forgive you, Aoife) and if it wasn’t for social media, my parents wouldn’t be able to make sure she didn’t end up like Liam Neeson’s daughter in Taken, and I’d have no way of telling her what face masks to post me over. So many of my friends also ditched me to go to England for university (I’ll never forgive youse either), but that doesn’t mean that I’m not able to talk to them everyday and make them feel guilty for leaving me behind. You think moving countries is gonna get rid of me? Nice try. Buzz, buzz girl. Me again.

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So yes, people do seem to use phones more and speak less; but a lot of the time we’re on our phones talking to people, it’d be physically impossible (or unhandy) to be with them in person. I’m not exactly going to dander over to my friend’s house at 9am on a Sunday or at 11pm at night – that’d be a wee bit weird don’t you think?

Yes, there are phone calls, but once that call’s over, so is the interaction. I’d personally rather be able to talk to people throughout the day, than be limited to one certain time (I’m so clingy, damn). Not to mention trying to find a time when you and someone else are actually free at the same time; you can just quickly reply when you’ve a few minutes to spare. Basically, you’re able to fit your socialising into your schedule.

And yes, there are carrier pigeons, but I mean come on guys, animal rights? And they fly into a lot of windows. R.I.P Gary.

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I know not everyone’s the same, people use social media for different things. Some use it more than others. I use social media to talk to people when I’m not able to talk to them any other way, but I meet them in person whenever I can because I’m a social butterfly who needs constant attention and interaction. 🙂

So I think social media is social, and antisocial at the same time; depending on how, how much and when it’s used. I do think that society as a whole is becoming scarily dependent on technology (@ creepy Alexa), but sadly, I doubt this will change. So I’m using social media in a way that suits me and that I’m comfortable with. That’s the beauty of it. It’s so diverse that it can be used in so many different ways, so everyone can find what works for them. Yeah it’s changed how much we interact with each other, how and when. But is it necessarily a bad thing?

How Coffee Shops Saved My (Social) Life

This morning as I was on my way to get my daily coffee before work, my brother said something so outrageous that shocked me to my very core. “There’s too many coffee shops in Belfast.” It pains me to even type the words.

Once I had a chance to gather myself, I replied “Ammm, ain’t no such thing” (I’m very street like that).

He then went on to list some: Caffe Nero, Hotel Chocolat, Tim Horton’s, Bob & Bert’s, Pearl’s, Clements, Costa, Starbucks (all of which I’ve got loyalty cards for) as if that was too many?

It got me thinking, where would I be without all of these coffee shops? A lot better off financially yes. But also a LOT more tired, and a lot less social.

I’m a placement student, which means that my schedule doesn’t really sync up with any of my friends who are still at uni. They’re free during the day and out at night, I’m in work all day then in bed by 10pm most nights.

But there’s that glimmering, cappuccino coloured window between 5 and 7pm, after I’ve finished work and before they’ve to go home and start preing.

I mean, what can you do at 5pm? No one under the age of around 60 (no offence) has dinner that early, and going for “a drink” isn’t really an option.

Coffee. That’s what you do.

What do you do at 8am, when the shops are all still closed and you can’t exactly sit at your desk for an hour before work?

Coffee. That’s what you do.

After lectures and seminars to procrastinate actually doing uni work?

You guessed it- el caffe. (See how I’m mixing things up?)

Don’t get me wrong, I do love coffee. But for me its not about the drink; I go for coffee because I want to go somewhere nice and sit and catch up with my friends. Even those who hate coffee love going for coffee; there’s steamers, tea, weird flavoured lattes and those ridiculous drinks in Starbucks with a mountain of cream on top and another mountain of sugar inside.

I must admit, Belfast doesn’t have much when it comes to nightlife, everything sort of closes in the city centre at around 7pm (except the glorious night that is Thursday). But there’s always a light on in that Starbucks opposite Europa, or Tim Horton’s (yeah, we’ve got one of those now). Well, until 10pm when they close, but you know what I mean.

All of these coffee shops have actually really shaped my (and Belfast’s) social life.  They don’t just provide us with my daily dose of caffeine and free wifi (yay), they give us a place to sit with our friends and catch up on everything going on each other’s lives.

 

And it’s not just big multi-national chains, it’s wee small independent coffee shops and chains throughout the north of Ireland like Clements and Bob & Bert’s. I always try to go the local shops and give them a turn instead. If you think about, I’m basically a caffeine-fuelled modern-day Robin Hood.

I’m helping support the local high street -which God knows it needs all the help it can get after the Primark fire reduced footfall by 30%. And with amount of money I spend a week on a coffee, I’m probably single-handedly sustaining the local coffee industry.

Coffee shops are so important to Belfast. We need somewhere to sit have a good chat- and God knows we need caffeine. Coffee’s what we drink, it’s what we do, it’s who we are.

So, I’ll raise my skinny cappuccino and toast to the coffee shops of Belfast, “thank you”.