17 June 2018
While I could spend many hours watching make-up tutorials on Instagram (I mean, the magic of contouring!), I am definitely a ‘no make-up make-up’ kind of girl. I will always prioritise skincare over the stuff to cover up my skin, and while the sheer number of cleanser/acid/serum/lotion combinations to suit each individual skin are way beyond my (lack of) expertise, the following three tools help me on a daily basis to keep it in the best condition possible without a facialist on speed dial.
Hayo’u Beauty Restorer
I have mentioned the Hayo’u Beauty Restorer on Instagram before, in nothing short of glowing (pun intended) terms. For a relatively simple-looking piece of jade, it gives brilliant results that improve with daily use. With the help of an easy-to-follow instruction video by the founder of Hayo’u, Katie Brindle, you need just a minute a day to perform a combination of deep breathing, strokes and pressure point holds that improve circulation and assist detoxification. It may sound a little ‘alternative’ when you consider the more high-tech approach to modern skincare, but it’s based on a healing technique from Chinese medicine known as Gua sha.
I use it with the heavenly Hayo’u Beauty Oil (on my forehead, cheeks and neck only – it depends on how your skin gets on with facial oil) every evening, and it is not only hugely relaxing, but has already made a significant improvement to the definition of my jawline and the firmness of my skin.
At £35 for the Beauty Restorer, it’s a one-off investment (unless you drop it on your bathroom floor…) that will keep on giving. The Beauty Oil is £33, but there are sometimes specials if you buy both. There is also a range of body products (next on my list!)
Clinique Sonic Brush
This tool requires a bit of a deep breath on the price front (although, not quite the deep breath of some of its competitors!) At £79, the Clinique Sonic Brush is obviously a bit of an investment (I suppose some beauty experts would consider it a mere drop in the ocean of insane product prices…), but I’ve had mine for a year, using it every single morning, and I’ve only had to recharge it once and buy one replacement brush head (£17). The good news is that it’s often on special at Boots and on some of the online shops that stock Clinique – I bought mine half price – so if you’re willing to wait and watch a bit, you might see it drop in price at some point.
It really gives your skin a really thorough, but not abrasive, clean if used with the Liquid Facial Soap (£16.50 – it lasts for ages) for a minute every morning. It did lead to a bit of a break-out for me initially, but now helps me maintain a clear complexion like no other product has managed before.
The Body Shop Round Body Brush
At an entirely sensible £9, this is certainly the best value for money skincare tool I own, and I have used one every single day for over 15 years. When used to brush in firm strokes up your limbs towards your heart before you bath or shower, it does amazing things for your circulation and the tone of your skin. It’s said to reduce cellulite, but I can’t attest to the validity of this claim as that has a lot of do with genetics (my mum doesn’t have any and I seem to have benefited somewhat from this, but she wasn’t kind enough to pass on the flat stomach and skinny arms, so this is not my sad attempt at a stealth brag). The fact that dry body brushing is said to exfoliate the skin and stimulate the lymphatic system means it can surely help keep the skin healthy and refreshed, even if it’s not going to completely eliminate cellulite.
It needs to be replaced whenever the bristles lose their firmness, but this one from the Body Shop lasts for ages and has all the right eco credentials!
14 January 2018
In the same October weekend last year that women across social media gave voice to the hashtag of #metoo, throwing some revoltingly shady behavior under the harsh spotlight it deserves, Conservative MP (and apparent sufferer of a severe allergy to liberal causes), Jacob Rees-Mogg announced that calling himself a feminist would be ‘ridiculous’. While the reasons he gave were based on the idea that it would somehow be impertinent for a man to claim the title of feminist, it showed a profound ability for missing the point by a country mile.
As a mother of two small boys, I temper the stereotypical relief at not having to navigate the teenage years of girls with the understanding that I have a significant responsibility to raise two men who do everything in their power to make the world equal for everyone on the gender spectrum at every age. I know that some people roll their eyes at the idea that there are more than two genders, but if we all just take the view that the science of gender is still an area where even scientists and doctors are still fumbling somewhat in the dark, then we can just crack on with the business of empowering every human being regardless of what’s in their pants.
And this, I would suggest (and it’s not an original suggestion by any means) is the very heart of real feminism, as opposed to the outdated and cynical view of feminism having something to do with hairy armpits and the goal of enslaving all men. Real feminism is about equality, where boys and girls (and everyone in between) are treated as valued individuals, with the same potential, opportunities and respect throughout their lives. It’s about acknowledging that all human beings are different and will face different challenges in their lives, but that discriminating in any way against them because of their reproductive organs is an utter waste of everyone’s time and resources.
As much as feminism is about uplifting women – in terms of education, addressing the gender pay gap, and finding solutions for the fact that women are so often disadvantaged by the exercising of their wombs (the fantastic Pregnant Then Screwed website highlights the ridiculous statistic that 54,000 women a year in the UK alone are pushed out of their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity leave), it has the enormously valuable side effect of creating a more equal society for men too. If my boys become fathers, I want them to have as much right to be at home with their children as their partners. If they ever find themselves suffering from emotional distress or mental health issues, I want them to know that they can talk about it without fearing any repercussions because of outdated expectations of their gender to be stoic and macho. Suicide is the leading killer of men under 45 (see CALM), and the pressures placed on men by a gender-imbalanced society that pounces on any sign of weakness in men as not being ‘manly’ are literally life-threatening.
The continuing reports of harassment and assault from the entertainment industry and political circles are shocking only in that they provide a clear picture of just how prevalent this behavior is. Many columnists and pundits have commented that it’s hard to work out exactly what is inappropriate (a squeeze of the upper arm? a hand on the knee? a pat on the bum?) Honestly, it’s not that bloody complicated. If you start from a position that everybody is entitled to their own bodily integrity, then there’s no need to feel anxious and hamstrung. If we’re all treating each other with mutual, equal respect, then it won’t be difficult to judge ‘the line’ between predatory behaviour and genuine compliments. If this honestly still doesn’t clarify things, then just always consider whether you’d behave the same way towards someone of your own gender (or indeed, someone not the gender/physical type of your personal sexual preference – harassment and assault are not purely an issue of man on woman, even if that is the huge majority of cases).
Feminism is all about this form of equality, and it’s literally easy enough for children to understand - when my three-year-old says goodbye to his friends after a playdate, I suggest that he asks if they’d like a hug. The same goes for when my sons’ grandparents visit – I ask the boys if they would like to have a hug. It’s a lot less awkward in practice than it sounds, and hopefully teaches them to respect their own bodies just as they respect others. For all the reasons that I’ve mentioned before, men often feel unable to report when they have been harassed or assaulted, and learning that all bodies are worthy of respect is a surely a good step in combatting this taboo.
Part of growing up is realizing that many people you encounter will behave like fuckwits, but feminism makes it a level playing field on which to be a fuckwit. It also means any form of sexual harassment or assault would become so clearly unacceptable, that silence, or the fear that you won’t be believed, would ideally become unthinkable.
Feminism is for everyone. It means little girls need not grow up believing that their faces and bodies are the only things of value, and that my sons can choose the ‘pink’ magazine at the newsagents without the man behind the counter having an opinion (obviously kids’ magazines are an entire blog post of seething parental rage on their own…) It means that my amazing guy friends, who have always been feminists, can actually call themselves that, only increasing the volume of our call for equality, and an end to the insidious and downright dangerous prevalence of casual, ingrained misogyny. They in turn can continue to provide the positive male role models for my sons, who will hopefully reach adulthood in a world where feminism is no longer a hot topic of conversation, because its central aims will be just part of the status quo. And, if this isn’t the case, they will be able to actively participate in achieving this goal.
P.S. My amazing pussyhat pin is by the wonderful Sophia 203, @p_ssyhatpin_bysophia203 on Instagram.
8 October 2017
If you speak to anyone who knew me in my uni days, you’ll know that a saintly attitude to all things alcoholic has never been part of my style. I enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to get cheerfully smashed whenever it presented itself, and was even paid with a six-pack of beer (Black Label, no less – talk about a class act) when I did stand-up comedy at the Student Union. Whether or not this improved my act remains a mystery…and is one of the many reasons I thank God almost daily for the invention of camera phones only after this time. At one of the big party universities in South Africa (the amount of beer drunk by our tiny student population of 7,000 was always a point of pride), going ‘large’ was standard, and I look back on that time with huge fondness, and a wincing liver.
At this point, I would also like to insert a warning to my children for when they are older, and as nuggets of parental wisdom go, I’d say it’s pretty significant – never ever (ever) drink the yucca at a Rowing Club toga party. Being woken up at 5am by the Sunday Times truck is always a bit annoying after a big night. When you open your eyes and can actually see every bolt on the truck’s tyres because you’re sleeping on the central reservation of the main road outside your university (having been carried there on the sofa you’d fallen asleep on – bloody rowers and their ludicrous upper body strength), it’s time to make a resolution to steer clear of all lemon-based vodka punches for good.
However, in all this time of happy debauchery, I can pinpoint less than a handful of times where I tucked into a drink because I felt I ‘needed’ it, and with kidneys that were wont to throw an infection at me on a regular basis, going out stone-cold sober was never really a hindrance in terms of enjoying myself. Talking at the top of my voice or making a tit of myself is not something I’ve ever had to rely on alcohol to help me do, so its presence on a night out was generally more as part of the fun rather than the point of the exercise. If I couldn’t drink because I was antibiotics, that really wasn’t a good enough reason to stay at home.
My endometriosis kicked in just a month after I finished university, and with it came the need to consider ‘lifestyle choices’ – the dullest of all the choices, let’s be fucking serious. Along with a special diet to try and manage my symptoms, I was forbidden from indulging in my favourite beers, red wine, and G&Ts. This was a proper case of ‘hashtag sad face’ as I enjoyed these things enormously, but I was willing to do anything necessary. The fact that this gave me a kind of reverse version of the ‘Heathrow Injection’, where I lost about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) in six months, was certainly a case for ‘hashtag smug face’, which made up somewhat for the lack of yummy Merlot in my existence. But, dark times were ahead… My first glass of red wine after a six-month break absolutely sank me. I was embarrassingly drunk after about four sips, hungover after another four, and fast asleep about 15 minutes later. I was suddenly the world’s cheapest, and dullest, date.
Gradually I worked out that wine and champagne were the major no-nos, but that clear spirits like gin were fine. However, I would be able to nurse that G&T for well over two hours, and my absolute limit for many years was two – unless I really wanted to feel like a warmed-up corpse for two or three days. Gradually this amount has been reduced even further to, well, almost nothing. For the past year, I’ve had to concede defeat and stop ordering my beloved amaretto sours (has there EVER been a more perfect cocktail??), as any alcohol at all means I can literally feel my liver and kidneys growing too big for my body. It’s like my organs are doing an impression of a helium balloon, and it bloody hurts. So, I am now the lucky llama who is pretty much faced with the choice of Coke or sparkling water when ‘out out’ (although, can we just have a moment’s shout-out to the GENIUS makers of Seedlip non-alcoholic spirit – it’s sensational with tonic, but not available everywhere just yet).
Much as I would still like to be able to enjoy my favourite alcoholic beverages, the fact that I can’t drink isn’t something that bothers me or makes me any less likely to go somewhere I know people will be drinking (when even my sons’ favourite soft play centre stocks wine for the grown-ups, this would be nigh impossible anyway – I’d like to add that I can well imagine that the addition of wine to an adult’s experience of soft play could only be a vast sodding improvement). What has become rather boring, however, is the reaction of other people when I decline a glass of prosecco and ask for something soft instead. After running through the various reasons why I bizarrely wouldn’t want a drink (pregnant? alcoholic? puritan?) the person who offered me the drink will more often than not ask with an exasperated air, ‘then why not?’ I have tried saying ‘it just doesn’t agree with me’, but this tends to elicit a reaction that suggests I’ve just announced that I’d quite fancy shagging Donald Trump. However, the more detailed description of my whole alcohol/swelling internal organs link is way more detail than anyone needs at a cocktail party.
By then, my ‘freak’ neon light is fully flashing above my head, and it’s guaranteed that I’ll need to have this ‘why I don’t drink’ conversation at least seven or eight more times that evening. One memorable dinner party consisted of me being thoroughly questioned on this topic for the entire starter and most of the main. While I have absolutely no problem verbally wanking on about myself for hours on end, I can’t possibly imagine that this is a topic that would fascinate anyone? Surely we should all still be arguing over Brexit? Or judging other peoples’ parenting? Or complaining about the cost of installing nuclear bunkers in our gardens? I can’t be alone in thinking that whether or not I have a glass of wine is literally the least interesting topic of conversation in the entire history of, well, wine?
I have developed my own theory about this fascination with non-drinkers (or, at least, the ones without a ‘valid’ reason for abstaining), and it comes down to the simple matter of judgement. Not my own, I must clarify. I have absolutely no opinion on someone else’s drinking habits - whether you crack open a bottle of Pinot at 5pm on the nose because your children have screamed non-stop since school pick-up, or if some days you fancy a pre-lunch aperitif, I can’t see why I would possibly care. In fact, I often wish I could join you. Likewise, if you get tanked on a night out and I need to hold back your hair as you have a chat with the porcelain telephone, I would only really start feeling somewhat judgy about your behaviour if you literally puked on my shoes. It’s your body, it’s your decision, and as long as it doesn’t endanger you or anyone else, I can’t summon up the energy to feel one way or another about it. In fact, there is never a shortage of something to drink when you come to my house, even though neither Mac nor I drink any of it ourselves. If you come for dinner, you will not be expected to neck litres of nettle tea – there’ll be a variety of delicious options, and even the prospect of taking home any remaining open bottles as we won’t want to waste them – surely that’s no bad thing? Adult party favours for the win!
This ‘judgement’ I speak of is entirely projected by other people onto me, which I think you’ll agree is rather strange. Surely it has no impact on your life? I will still get louder and sillier as a night out progresses, and will happily be the last to leave the dancefloor. As an added bonus, I’ll be able to drive you home afterwards, while having no objection to the fact that you’ll probably feel the need to tell me how much you’ve always loved me at least 17 times. When you wake up the next day and want sympathy for the fact that you’re hanging like a pair of dog’s bollocks and still have to try and effectively parent your children all day, I will be full of sympathy - not pointing and laughing as I jog past in my athleisure wear.
I have no moral objection to other people’s drinking, but I do object to being labelled as a party pooper for not indulging alongside everyone else. I also don’t particularly fancy a round of applause when I do decide I really fancy a beer once in a blue moon. Drinking is not a moral issue (unless it compromises your treatment of others, or indeed yourself), and I’m dubious of campaigns that try to make people ‘Sober Heroes’ for charity. If you want a drink, have a drink. If you don’t, then don’t. But if you feel like you’re somehow powerless to make that decision in the face of peer pressure, whatever age you are, then that’s a conversation you need to have with yourself. And, hopefully, the people around you won’t make a big deal of it if you make the decision not to.
P.S. This photo of my 20-year-old self doing stand-up was taken by one of my best friends (and now godfather to my youngest son), Trevor Crighton. He’s @trevorcrighton on Instagram.