Thursday, 11 December 2014

Tissues and Issues: Sensitive Soul Soliloquys

My friends’ couches have seen tears of all varieties. As a rule, there will always be tissues in my handbag, but they’re rarely in aid of the “cold that’s going around” Almost daily, I have to apologise to somebody I’ve just spilled my verbal angst on – “I’m sorry, I know it’s not anything, really. I’m just a worrier!”

And then I have to give that half smile, half frown, pretend it’s not really the big deal my wheedling tones have suggested, silly me, change the subject, but how are you getting on? Because of course it could never really be a big deal - that Floraidh Clement, she's just a worrier. 
A "worrier", it certainly sums me up - god, it's almost like I want people to read this and think I'm even less attractive. Because that's really not, is it? There's nothing attractive about the consistent and furious texting into the phone keypad, the friends who so boldly offer their selves up as counsellors, attentive on the other end. There's nothing hot about how my voice raises an octave, takes on that uncomfortable strangled tone and starts to stutter. There's no passion killer quite like the flushed cheeks and furrowed brow; believe me, there's desire but it's not what you think - I need you to tell me that it's okay, I need you to tell me that I'm fine. I'm craving your reassurance, your level head to bring me back down to earth.

It's not just all worrying; in general, I'm a highly emotional person. I'm pretty sensitive. I cry quite a lot, not necessarily because I'm glum, but because there doesn't seem to be much of a logical correlation between my tear ducts and any given situation. When I'm up, I'm really up; when it goes the other way, it's exactly the same. My heart rules my head and I act totally on my emotions, rarely on "how things actually are outside of Flo's perceptions of things"

I bet it all sounds exhausting to be my friend. I don't doubt it; for some, my existence is just wholly exasperating. Recently, I have been the recipient of many rolling eyes, raised eyebrows and tuts. Mostly I shake this off - empathy, man - but sometimes it bothers me, because this is just how I’m wired. The friends who are understanding of the way I am are nothing short of angels, usually wielding M&S food and a spot on their couch for me to occupy for "as long as I need it".

To be truthful, I'm worrying about a lot at the moment, mostly about university. My once certain academic future is shaky as I've realised I don't love my degree subject as much as I so desperately want to. I force myself to try and work on it - turn my internet off, turn my phone off, turn everything in my life the hell off - but it doesn't happen, because I don't seem to feel any desire to make it happen.
But what do I do here? How do I change this part of my personality that is so intrinsic and ingrained into my psyche?

For a long time, I have often scolded myself, urging myself to toughen up; to find and flick some internal switch that toughens my skin and firmly shuts the emotional valve I allow to flow so freely. The more stoney-faced among us might look like the stick is so far up their ass that it's actually stuck to their tonsils, but at least they've probably not cried for at least a fortnight. Maybe I could learn a thing or two.

But I really do try to see the benefits of being this kind of person. As I've just said, it's not hot. It's a pain in the ass. I sometimes wish I were less emotional, less "in tune", more rational and more logical; a person with the kind of personality that would wear a trouser suit and sensible, lace up shoes. But on the other hand, my understanding of my own feelings means that I am implicitly careful when handling other peoples; I know how to tread delicately, which is a skill I feel many could do with harnessing. I know how to choose my words carefully; I would never want to inflict anxiety on somebody else, because I know through daily, first hand experience that it's excruciating to be addressed in ways that make you feel small. The only kinds of emotion I want to leave on others are positive ones - no matter who they are. And I will go out of my way to do so.

Look, I sort of just gave myself a bit of credit on a blog - see? That's quite rare. Maybe the emotional wreck is clearing herself up. Maybe this state of being, this wild sensitivity, this firm awareness of my emotional range is not all "tissues and issues" - battle wounds, confidence blooms.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Shot with (OK)Cupid's Arrow?

It's not very "cool" to admit, but I think the "Flo's Street Cred" boat has well and truly sailed into the ocean of "Dream On" now, right? So here it is: I'm a romantic. A senseless, foolish, weeping romantic. I am fucking tragic for a good love story. I'm the friend who goes doe eyed when you confess that there's somebody new in your life; your butterflies are contagious and I'll catch 'em as hard as you do. Every single time.

I'm an idiot for all of it; I use the term "idiot" because believe me, rarely does any good come from being this way. My life is essentially defined by this constant, furious struggle of keeping my heart in my chest, and not my sleeve.

This is why joining a dating website probably never occurred to me as something I should get into. I mean, can you think of any good love story in which the couple met via - the ghastliness of it... - some form of virtual medium? Christ, Romeo didn't "swipe right" to Juliet. Bridget Jones didn't get chatting to Mark Darcy on Tumblr one lonely, wine-filled evening. Peetah didn't favourite so many of Katniss' tweets that she finally confessed to Prim "I think the bread guy's quite keen"

But then one of my besties found the love of her life on OkCupid and let me tell you, my beautiful friend just glows, these days.

Anyway, her success made me reconsider my stance, since I currently have all the glowing potential of a blackboard and if anything, I quite like chatting to strangers. Plus, it's 2014; maybe Shakespeare would have been all over Tinder if he were still knocking about. Maybe it's what he would've wanted for me.

The process of creating my profile was a nightmare of course. At one dire point, the word "swazzy" was included in the first paragraph and I had confessed to having a massive crush on Woody Harrelson. But after an hour of fiddling over what kind of Flo I'd like to project to the online dating world, I can safely say I was hooked straight away.

I'll explain.

  • I can browse potential men pals whilst looking like this!!
Man killer xo

  • The process of online dating is completely hassle free - no awkward chat if I don't want it, here. No need to doll up, no need for my friends to tell me he "doesn't seem into it - but don't worry! He's a proper dickhead anyway!" and no need to try and be anything but myself.
  • And if they don't like "myself"? Block. Block away. On to the next one.
  • One particularly cold evening, I spent half an hour in intense, passionate discussion with a bearded guy exclusively about the majesty of Matthew McConaughey - something I am always down for doing. 
  • I have also enjoyed genuinely great, funny, interesting conversations with numerous guys - the kind when I look forward to opening their messages - but y'know...Matthew McConaughey.
  • It's like having somebody hand my ego a hot chocolate whenever somebody "likes" me.
  • My friends and I now regularly sit together in an orderly circle, browsing through the app and cackling away; so it's made us closer, too. Cute, I suppose.

  • You generally still go to bed after logging off with a notable lack of spooning partner.
  • In a sense, being scouted to partake in group sex is somewhat flattering, but ultimately not really on my agenda right now.
  • Nor is being asked if I'd like a sugar daddy.
  • Nor are any of the other obscene things people have propositioned me with online - and I'm no prude.
All in all, OkCupid success rating? I'm still working on my verdict. In the meantime, I actually (and possibly shamefully) posted a link to my blog on my own profile.

Hey guys! Still up for "liking" me now?

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Flovember Rain

Have you ever tried Jager and Coke? You should. Few kinds of alcohol merit the term "delightful" as sincere praise but since pioneering this concoction myself, I struggle to find another word to use. Jager and Coke is essentially a party in liquid form - well, if your kind of party comprises of staggering behind the cashier desk at 10am the next morning, hands still shaking as you enter the digits and watching the shop go round and round. It might not be yours, but apparently it's mine.

Speaking of "shop", that's a thing now - "I was looking for a job and then I found a job". No longer are my weekends spent sitting at my desk in gross cotton knickers, desperately searching for the right words to finish a short story I should have realistically abandoned months ago. Instead, I have found myself working in the starry industry of retail, namely Superdrug. Indeed, these days I'm a small, thoroughly unimportant cog in the corporate machine, offering you beauty cards and Star Buys before you can mutter "I'm actually in, like, a bit of a rush?". I exist exclusively in the backdrop of your retail experience; literally, I am the poorly paid extra in your movie of your life. But in turn, you are an extra in mine; the difference being, your movie probably doesn't have any Jager and Coke in it. Together. In the same glass. Are you convinced yet? Have you jumped out of bed to run to the nearest bar? I hope so.

But the honest truth is that I'm actually a bit shit at my job; no good on the tills, that is. Truly, I take the "pro" out of "proletariat"- ask my boss, who just this weekend exclaimed in surprise "I was just thinking, you've not had to buzz for me for around two hours now!"

Because, well, yes - that's an unusually long time for me to not need help. It's all the numbers and the adding up and the rounding up and rounding down. Christ, I'm an English student, numbers may as well be riddles. The place might be called Superdrug but I surely bring nothing Super to the whole situation. Might aswell be called Sorrydrug for the amount of times I have to mutter it, embarrassed and resisting the urge to mention my A Level grades in a last ditch attempt to prove that my brain is not totally filled with Maryland cookies and the Kardashians.

And it isn't, it really isn't. I also successfully applied for a marketing internship for a jewellery business, which is a genuinely wonderful, worthwhile way of spending my only day off. I sit in front of a laptop next to a kitten called Beau and a bag of Haribo, scanning through social media and planning blog posts and marketing strategies. I have no witty tales to share from the experience so far but it is massively fulfilling. On Friday I walked out of the office with eyes twinkling like the necklaces they sell, already looking forward to what next week might bring.

Hmm, other things?

I went on a terrible date with a terrible boy in the name of journalism. That was pretty crap, but like all those with taste buds, I love Irn Bru sorbet and would probably endure hellish things to get some of it - and 800 words, of course. I also went on OkCupid as half-research, half-"if it's good enough for Anya..." and ended up speaking to numerous guys, some of whom live infinitely more interesting sounding lives than me, some of whom need to acquire something close to actual lives. Either way, I ended up pretty hooked on the whole thing, and got my friends to waste their time on it too. I have since dubbed us all the "OkCREWpid" - I just felt myself losing readers - and we spend an inordinate amount of time sitting on our phones in companionable silence, just scrolling and judging. Me less so, nowadays. Make of that what you will.

Finally, my dad fixed my broken window, so I will no longer lie awake at night and be forced to wonder if I'm taking on too much, if my hair is too dark or my current outlook on uni even darker.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Girl Crushes: Because My Eyes Aren't Painted On

I wish it was less clichéd, but it really did start in the changing rooms at school.

One of my friends had the sort of figure I didn't realise actually existed outside of the silver screen. She was an early bloomer and had a real Marilyn "hourglass" shape, all curves at the chest and hips and thighs with the daintiest of waists. Her body was exquisite and almost unearthly; even when the rugby shirt and nylon shirts were worn for P.E. she was statuesque. I never thoroughly examined what it was I was actually feeling at the time - attraction, admiration, maybe even arousal - but one thing was certain; I could not tear my eyes away from this girl and her beautiful body.

Though I've not been in school changing rooms for years now (thank God), this kind of attraction to the female form has honestly only intensified. When an attractive girl walks by, I still struggle to tear my eyes away, forcefully resisting the urge to saunter up to her and blurt "I'm sorry, it's just that you are really bloody gorgeous" Women in magazines, women on Tumblr, women on the music scene; I regularly gawp at them all, usually whilst wondering how it could be humanely possible to look that beautiful.

Still, it's not exclusively along the lines of the superficial "pal, I've gotta say it - you are FIT FIT FIT" to the attractive strangers I encounter. Many of the girls I am fortunate enough to call my friends I feel similarly about; their strength, their wisdom, their talents and their magnificent peach of a bum. They just have fanciable qualities. To some extent, I am besotted with each of them; I don't feel that the fact I've only ever had boyfriends really does much to deny me accepting the plainly obvious facts.

But if this is how I feel, are boyfriends what I'm meant to have - or could it be that I'm gay?

Well, over time I've realised that's not the case - I identify as straight. Sure, sexuality is fluid and nothing is totally certain; for all I know, I'll meet a woman tomorrow who I'll want to run off to Vegas to elope with. But in the meantime, I can only see myself being in relationships with men - what can I say? I like a bit of stubble in my life.

Yet there's just something about women. I can appreciate the softer skin, the wider hips and more delicate wrists. They are just universally wonderful. But as time has gone on I've started to realise that it does go beyond the high school terminology of "fancying" them; it goes so much deeper. I think it's just sincere wonder and admiration for beautiful human beings, whether they are this way physically or on the inside.

And quite positively, whilst you are filling yourself with this admiration for womankind as opposed to envy or bitterness, it's easier to feel less resentment towards yourself. If you are able to see so much beauty elsewhere, sometimes it's easier to identify when it's a little closer to home; you might not know it sometimes, but you are allowed to give yourself credit for your own strength, wisdom, talents and magnificent peach of a bum.

In that sense, my changing room fascination blossomed into something meaningful and important which I carry with me every day in life; I truly believe that loving and appreciating other women was crucial in helping me to love and appreciate myself. And every thirteen year old girl checking out their friend in the changing room deserves to know that as soon as they possibly can.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Flomeo and Blogliet

Can I be frank with you?

This blog doesn't do it for me like it once did. We're like an old married couple who stayed together for the kids; slowly growing more and more resentful of one another, not even spooning in bed like we used to.

I am the dissatisfied wife, he's the high maintenance husband. I still curl my hair in the hope that he'll push it behind my ear and whisper that I look beautiful today. I keep an eye on my figure and make breakfast for him in the morning. I sit with him for hours trying to start conversation; you know, open ended, harmless questions, like asking how his day was, is work okay, does he want a cuppa?

But I get nothing in return, not a single word. I'm frustrated and embarrassed. I mean, after all I've done for him?

I don't think I'm being unreasonable, here. He could at least take me out now and then - nothing fancy, even just the M&S Café. He could maybe even go to the gym. Pull his socks up and try to woo me, again. Be the blog I fell in love with and couldn't get enough of.

But I fear that blog I knew is gone. We're not right for each other, any more. Maybe it's - oh god, it's dramatic - the end.

Ridiculous metaphors (you know I'm a sucker for those...) aside, I seem to have this recurring problem with this blog. Like the dissatisfied wife previously described, I try and try again to make this work. I want it to be good, I want it to be liked, I want people to say "wow, you should have told us you weren't totally useless!" but these days I can barely write a few sentences before resigning myself to "nah, uselessness is just part of your....charm? Maybe? Flo?"

Seriously. Sometimes I look around for inspiration on what excites or riles me and I don't see anything. Usually in conversation with friends I'll say "oooh, I might blog about that!" at least once, but recently the need to express that never seems to reach my lips. It could be that I'm just fine with everything right now; nothing is particularly exciting or riling, the two emotions which usually inspire me on to put down whatever I'm doing, shut everybody else out and sit down with BlogSpot. My current reactions to what's happening in the world are rarely more meaningful than a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down".

"UKIP MP elected" - not good man, not good at all. Thumbs down.

"Gone Girl released in UK cinemas" - yeeeees! That's grand. TWO thumbs up.

See? It's just not exciting reading. You wouldn't take a few minutes of your day to read 600 words of that. But I can't come up with anything else, any more.

Really, I'm writing this because then at least I've have written something, and that's better than sitting with my head on my keyboard, wondering what I'm doing wrong and how I can ever keep this spark alive between my blog and I.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Dear Freshers,

Well, you look awful. If you ended up in bed with somebody last night, they’ve probably taken one look at you and made a run for it.  Is that vomit in your hair or is your brain literally leaking out of your ear? I bet it feels like it is. I bet you were drawn towards those one pound Jagerbombs last night like a moth in the dark to candle light. It’s alright, though. This blog is a judgement-free zone. But if you ever actually want to recover, I would advise you to stay out of the kitchen where you hosted pre-drinks for a while yet; the actual state of it will plunge you even further into the dark, gloomy pits of this hellish hangover.

But then, you might not fit that description at all. I might have found you clear headed and fresh faced, ready to face the day and to face the new life you’re embarking on, but without alcohol and partying. That’s alright - you don’t have to do that. There's still every chance you might feel pressured into doing so - "come on, just one drink! Don't be boring!" - but you just do whatever the hell makes you feel comfortable. A lot of people use university as an excuse to teeter out of their comfort zone – in heels they cannot walk in, usually – but there is absolutely nothing wrong with staying contentedly within it. I commend you for it.

Nonetheless, it goes without saying that with all this newfound freedom and drinks that will cost you less than a bus ticket into town, you may find yourself making a bit of a tit of yourself in the next few years. You might make some mistakes; you might put faith into people who perhaps aren't worth it, you might get your social life/academics priorities wrong, you might drastically overestimate your ability to drink those Jagerbombs. You might even sleep with your flatmate! (no, I don't care HOW fit they are - nothing good will come of that situation) But you're better off making these mistakes now. You will learn from them, so forgive yourself. I love a bleak Tweet about the foolish, ridiculous situations I seem to frequently wander into, but there's only so much social media self pity before you have to dust yourself off and say "fine. Whatever. What's next?"
Besides, you have your studies to focus on! Woah, did you forget? Ah, sorry - turns out those highlighters aren't just for drawing cute designs on your face.
Here's a tip: I'm assuming you chose your degree subject because you love it. Try and keep it that way, even if the chemistry seems to fizzle out now and then and you hit rocky patches (especially when you’re 500 words under the word count and you strongly suspect you may actually burst into tears if you have to think about a theorist again) The fact is that you're lumbered with this subject for the long haul, so you may as well find it worth the blood, sweat and tears. I know people who have already sussed that they’ve chosen the wrong subject for them and don't enjoy it at all, but they've decided it's just "easier to stick with". And you know what’s crap? I feel sorry for them. I feel genuinely sorry over the fact that they have chosen to spend the next three years working their sorry arses off for a subject they don’t absolutely love.
So weigh up if it's "love" or "oh my god, what have I done?" as soon as possible. If you think it through and decide your course isn’t for you, try and change courses. If that isn’t possible, I would go as far as to advise you to drop out entirely. See it as a blessing in disguise, re-apply and do something else for a year; find employment or even get out there and travel, if you can. If you think that university won't do much for you in general, don't see it as a "failure". You can learn so much more about the world through alternative means, because university is not the only way of receiving an education.   

Here I am talking about dropping out, when you've only just arrived. You're probably already overwhelmed - nope, I don't believe you if you try to insist you're cool and collected right now. You've just moved away from home and have been dumped into this pool of pissed up randomers who may be your best pals or the banes of your life. You damn well should be overwhelmed! But it will pass in time; freshers week is intense but as the semester begins and the conversations less clouded by whatever neon concoction is on offer at the student union, you will settle into the new pace of life. You might still have moments where you think "I'm meant to study...without being prompted? Christ, what is this meant to be?" (I definitely still do) but you may be surprised by how quickly you become accustomed to it.

Or you might not. Not a nice thought, huh? I know, but it concerns me that nobody else will say it to you and you'll only get the "best years of your lives!!!!" talk. People might still not want to own up to the fact, but university might not go as smoothly as you'd like socially; your flatmates might not be your kind of people and you might not meet the best friendship circle you were told you'd basically walk into immediately. That's not a fun situation to be in, believe me I know. Plus, the workload is a step up, the deadlines are usually tighter, the textbooks even thicker and yes, it could become hugely problematic for you. University is fun, sure, but it doesn't come without it's new obstacles.

So this is the most important point I want to make with this post: look after yourself and your mental health. Never feel ashamed, embarrassed or alone in feeling how you do. Do not be afraid to talk to somebody if you don't feel like everything is as hunky-dory as it feels it should be. This is actually the biggest regret I still carry from my first year of university. I was unnecessarily sad and anxious for so long because I felt too embarrassed to confess that I was struggling. Slumping into passivity will only prolong whatever the issue may be, so get in touch with your parents, tutors or a counsellor - most universities even have phone helplines. Seriously, this is actually one mistake you actually can't allow yourself to make. Please know that you are too damn important to compromise your own happiness. I mean it.

But I don't want to leave this letter on a solemn note, because - as I've now had the joy of learning for myself - you should spend the next few years feeling anything but solemn. You should be excited - there might be some nerves thrown in there, too, but you should be bloody well bouncing off the walls. Make sure you make use of the university societies; you'll meet people who you already have things in common with, which is half the battle, really, plus they may have great social events. Sports clubs, student media, choirs and amateur dramatic societies - anything that floats your boat, push yourself out of your circle and go for them. Always try and talk to the people next to you in lectures; they're willing for somebody to extend a hand of friendship just as much as you probably are. Don't shy away from the new opportunities and challenges that lie ahead of you; take your tail out from between your legs and run towards them.

Look after your friends, look after yourself and have a bloody brilliant time.

Now go for a shower and sort yourself out. Like I said - you really do look dreadful.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

I've Lost My Keys

In my life I have always acknowledged that to some extent, I am kind of a dickhead. You might think I'm being a wee bit harsh on myself here but actually, I'm pretty okay with it. It is a realization that occurs to me like a football boot to bollocks quite frequently; for example, when I ignore everybody's advice to "slow down a bit" at predrinks, then I pass out in the birthday girl's bed an hour later and miss the night out. I realise it on the many occasions when I say too little when I should speak up, and when my filter suddenly disappears at times when maybe, I should pipe down a little. It happens especially so during Mighty Boosh marathons when Howard says something lame and my response is not to guffaw at the screen, but to nod and wistfully think "y'know we'd probably be great pals if you were a real person?"

To be honest, the "you're a dickhead, Flo" realization is hitting me again right now. I have just finished eating Indian food with my dad, who has since popped off on the Subway back to his hotel. I would like to be doing what he'll be doing right now - lying in bed, full and content, like a pregnant penguin - but instead I'm sitting by myself in the library. I'm locked out of my flat. Lost the bloody key. I've lived there ten days.

It is surreal typing that though - "my flat". Unlike "my halls" it's got this wonderfully adult quality to saying it; it signifies having my shit together, paying actual rent to a landlord and cooking actual meals and even doing a bit of dusting now and then. Saying "my flat" beats "my halls" any day. Check me out - I bought bin bags for my flat today. And kitchen roll. Because I'm an ADULT in MY FLAT. That's what we all do, right?

You'd think that would be the case. But I don't think real adults lose their keys.

So I feel more of a pretend adult right now, really; kind of like a toddler in nursery school playing in a plastic kitchen whilst the real adults smile and utter through gritted teeth "oh, she's really..energetic?!" Sadly those nursery school days are even further behind me now, since I turn twenty in over three weeks. I'm not looking forward to it. Once you turn twenty, you have to accept the fact that you actually are a sullen bitch and it really isn't just those pesky teenage hormones. Saying you're twenty years old has no wonderfully adult quality; just the regular kind - "I miss the days when I didn't have to care about the shit like kitchen roll".

In other news that doesn't make me feel like I'm pretty much going to fail all the basic tasks life naturally gives me, I now have a column for qmunicate! Considering I had roughly twelve Twitter breakdowns over my application, several crisis talks with my mum and maybe one too many "consolatory entire packets of Maryland cookies" after getting a bit upset over it, this has undoubtedly been the best thing to happen to me in my first year of university. Proclaiming that something is a "dream" of yours always sounds a bit naff, but since learning I could coherently string a sentence together, writing a column has been...well, yes. A dream of mine. "Triumphant" is a good word to sum up how I feel - like Marythe cow from that advert ("she's always wanted to be a horse...")

It came at an especially good time too, since my blog inspiration has been a little low recently and when people know that you write there seems to be this pressure to...always write. Write and be funny, write and be thoughtful, write and write and write.

Moral of the story: lose your keys, start writing.