How Mrs. Maisel can inspire the modern woman

Enter Mrs. Maisel. A gorgeously irritating, fast-talking, quick-witted fashion icon that defies, not only the era she finds herself in, but the often prevailing notions that surround women today. As she makes her way to our screens for the fifth and final season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, we recall the evolution of her character and the uncovering of a TV treasure destined to live on long after the show airs. 

Midge, as she’ll come to be known by, is a complex character. From the almost get-go, she is seen relinquishing any concern for what society expects of her as a 1950’s mother and housewife. Of course, there are hints of hypocrisy as she is seen measuring the width of her hips and can appear heavily consumed with her appearance regularly flapping over outfit choices. This could be viewed as against the grain of what we want from our feminist icons but perhaps it would be much more modern of us to grant her this choice. Why can’t she swear, be funny and look good? If Midge has taught us anything, it’s that none of these traits are mutually exclusive. She shatters the illusion that women aren’t funny and that beautiful things shouldn’t utter obscenities. She is never seen to be self-pitying and, though never treating the men in her life unkindly, she realises they are only accessories to her bigger dream of becoming a stand-up comedian.

Her transformation from a housewife trying desperately to please her husband in the first episode to an ambitious single female, unperturbed by any of society’s expectations, is quick. The revelation of a cheating husband does not inspire Midge to get mad, as it might most of us, but to get even. We don’t watch her burn his clothes or sob for half a series. Instead, we see her take to the stage in comedic perfection. Without any deliberate intention of stealing her husband’s ambition of becoming a comic, she naturally assumes this role through inadvertently unleashing the humour she always possessed (which just so happened to far outweigh any talent her husband had). It took this shattering betrayal and loss of what she perceived to be her sole identity as the perfect wife and mother to realise that she had something to offer the world outside of these stereotypes.

What we love most about Midge is her fearlessness – she is unafraid to make the seemingly unholy admission that neither motherhood nor domestic life fulfil her. She does not dilly-dally, wrap herself in guilt or doubt herself. Granted, she takes this to the extreme as she is seen taking an arguably passive interest in her children. But if Dad did the same would anyone bat an eyelid? Equally, she comes from the absolute privileged position of having willing parents and a housekeeper able to care for her children allowing her the freedom to pursue her goals.

While most modern women find themselves in the midst of a circus-balancing act, we never watch Midge panic over the frivolities of life. Even when faced with financial difficulties, she finds a way of managing without spiralling. Again, it might be a flawed version of reality but it’s somewhere in this lack of realism that we can find ourselves inspired by Midge. The underlying message of female empowerment prevails without weighing heavy on the practicalities that consume most of us.

And though she paints a picture of togetherness, matching hats to a seemingly endless wardrobe of cocktails dresses, Midge is far from perfect. She is self-centred and, frankly, annoying at times. She is all-consumed with her own progress and unconcerned with the problems of those around her, leading us to question her actions at times. If we women are guilty of putting others before ourselves – Midge is guilty of putting herself before anyone else. In spite of this, we seem to forgive her. We recognise that she is fiction. She is the representation of what most of us might dare to be but never could be. She is bold and unyielding; she is impassioned and selfish; she is unquestionably marvelous.

As the series draws to a close, we are left wondering if Midge will ever make it big or if she’ll pursue any of the potential love interests she previously encountered. Really though – I don’t think we’re too concerned with either. It is in her unwavering pursuit of what makes her happy that we find interest in our leading lady. Our happy ending comes in watching a woman take to the stage, against the odds, making those laugh that defy she be funny in the first place. She serves as a reminder to us all that we should never give up on our dreams – no matter how far-fetched they may seem.

To Mrs. Maisel, we say “You’ve been amazing. Thank you and good night.”

It’s Just Do It Day, but how exactly do we just do “it”?

You’ve almost reached the end of January – undoubtedly alongside your bank balance and your tether. Many of us will have set out this new year with noble goals – get fit, eat healthy, meditate – and there will be a number of us who have managed to stick to our new paths. Unfortunately, most will have stumbled and fallen right around the second week of January with little intention of picking up where they left off. Whether Just Do It Day serves as an incentive to restart our failed habits is debatable and, even if it was to, chances are we would succumb to the same hurdles.

Coined by Nike in the late 80s, ‘Just Do It’ fast went onto become a globally recognised ‘kick up the butt’ that went far beyond any brand recognition. It was intended to act as a three syllable motivator – designed to stir up the fire in our bellies and force us into action. And while we can all appreciate the overt enthusiasm behind the phrase, it fails to inspire any long-term change.

Goals vs systems – creating a new identity

The problem with most resolutions, and general vows to incorporate better habits into our lives, is the focus on the end goal – the “it”- with little attention given to the “how”. While we can easily assert that we want to “get fit”, “eat healthy” or “meditate”, it is pointless if we don’t have the systems in place to achieve these outcomes. As US author Scott Adams asserts “Losers have goals. Winners have systems”.

This is not to dismiss goals. Goals provide a worthy trajectory but systems are better for making progress. Consider the moment a goal is achieved – alongside a brief sensation of euphoria comes the question “what now?” Achieving your goal only changes your life for a moment whereas successful habits provide daily wins. Given that our habits amount to around 40% of our day, systems and habits becomes less about some tangible outcome and more about establishing your identity. This notion of identity is integral in habit change – it shifts the focus from an end result to the idea that we are becoming the person we want to be. Each time we perform a habit, we reinforce our new identity making the continuation of that habit easier because it is who we are.

What is a habit?

A habit is something that a person does in a regular and repeated way to the point it becomes automatic. According to Charles Duhigg’s “Habit Loop” there is a discernible pattern inherent to every habit: A cue which triggers a habit; a craving that motivates you to engage in the habit; a response which equates to the habit itself; and a reward which serves as the end goal of any habit. “The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward.” (James Clear) As Duhigg states, “understanding these elements can help us in our understanding how to change bad habits or form better ones”.

How to develop a habit

By breaking a habit down in such a way, we can better tailor our behaviours in order to promote our good habits – and equally – quash any bad ones. Author of Atomic Habits, James Clear thankfully goes to the effort of spelling out this 4 step process.

Make it obvious (cue)

Many of us leave our new habits to chance and assume our good intentions will simply draw us to them. This requires a clear moment of active choice each day whereas by following a specific plan for where and when a habit takes place removes that need to decide – you are simply following a plan. The goal is to make the time and location so obvious that, with enough repetition, it will become automatic.

To further support your plan you can create visual cues – designing your environment in such a way that you are reminded to engage in your habit. Want to read more? Leave a book on your bed as a cue. You can also “habit stack” which involves adding your new habit on top of something you are already guaranteed to do every day i.e. having your morning coffee.

Make it attractive (craving)

As doctor and author Simon Marshall asserts, “If we can find a way to make the experience intrinsically pleasurable (dopamine), we’ve got a much better chance of it becoming a long-term habits”. This reference to dopamine is important as it is the neurotransmitter largely responsible for our cravings. Dopamine is not only released when we experience an event but when we anticipate it. It is therefore the anticipation of a reward that actually motivates us to act.

By temptation bundling, we can link an action we want to do with something we need to do. This allows us to derive instant gratification for habits that don’t, on their own, provide immediate benefits.

Make it easy (response)

As we embark on new habits, we often aim too high increasing our chances of failure because it’s simply “too hard”. The key is to start with repetition not perfection. As you repeat, the effort required over time will gradually decrease until the behaviour eventually becomes habitual. Consider even just two minutes of your new habit for a period of time – once you have mastered the art of showing up, you can then scale your habit up. Similarly, you want to reduce any habit friction. As research psychologist and author Wendy Wood notes,  “The friction you set up or remove in the environment is going to have an effect long after you’ve gotten discouraged and are less excited about the new behaviour.”

Make it satisfying (reward)

As Clear points out “Pleasure teaches the brain that a behaviour is worth remembering and repeating”. The secret is to derive some immediate satisfaction and, eventually, once the long-term benefits (more energy, weight loss etc) become evident these secondary rewards won’t mean so much. What’s important here is that the reward correlates with the new identity i.e. don’t reward yourself with wine for having completed a workout.

By using a “habit tracker”, you can keep a record of your daily wins. This can be extremely effective in stopping you from breaking your streak.

Rely on your systems – not motivation

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.

Vincent Van Gogh

Motivation is fleeting and unreliable. To depend on it for continued change puts a lot of pressure on ourselves, particularly on our bad days. By planning effectively, rewarding ourselves appropriately and building habits gradually we allow ourselves to become the kind of person who those habits embody. So, perhaps, before we Just Do It we should take some time to consider how – start small, stack, repeat. It might not have the same punch that Nike intended but at least it had the potential to get us to our “it”.

The inspiration for the piece came solely from James Clear’s Atomic Habits. I initially listened to the audiobook (free from the Libby app) and then went on to read the hard copy which my mother just so happened to have. I would recommend the book to anyone trying to kick start (and keep) any new habits. It offers practical, real life examples which are likely to correlate with some of your own goals. By taking the time to write this piece, I am trying to follow through with my own personal habit of writing more.

Hocus Pocus 2: why it can’t conjure up the same magic and why it never could

I asked my 7 year old son “Well, which one did you think was better?” While I’d imagine he won’t be the predominant demographic watching (30 somethings will be the core audience), he is around the age I was when I first watched Hocus Pocus but perhaps, most importantly, he is untouched by the biased hands of nostalgia. He replied “the first one” with no other reason than “it was just better”. And that pretty much sums up Hocus Pocus 2. But, what needs factored into this equation, is that it really doesn’t matter.

If you’re a millennial like me, you were most likely planning a reunion with “the girls” to watch the Sanderson Sisters return to the screen because it is now totally (and thankfully) acceptable to be a woman in your mid-thirties excited about a Disney movie. On this occasion, however, the excitement would be tempered with an acute element of reservation – How could it be better? Could it work without Max, Allison and Dani? Could the warmth I feel for the original ever really be replicated? Those reservations were founded. It wasn’t better; I missed the original trio sorely; and the warmth was admittedly a few degrees cooler but we knew this going in.

Hocus Pocus 2 follows new characters Becca, Izzy and Cassie and their attempt to navigate high school life in true American fashion with your jocks, your “weirdos” and those trying to negotiate between the two. We see the core group of friends temporarily drift but predictably reunite and just in time to save the day. The Black Flame Candle remains the conduit for the Sandersons in making their way back to the modern world and, again, it is a quest of defeating the trio before they run too much of amok amok amok.

We’re reminded of old jokes – missing brooms and their alternatives – and introduced to some new humour along the way. Sarah consuming a child in moisturiser form named “Retinol” might well by my own personal favourite. And if, like me, you’re watching it now with your own kids you’ll have to take the risk of one of them asking what a virgin is.

Like the original, many of the laughs come from watching the “three ancient hags’” take on the now 21st Century and, in my humble fan-girl opinion, this holds up. The plot works, though not without its holes, and offers some revelations such as the backstory for how the witches came to be which will be particularly enjoyable for the oldies watching. Whatever holes we do come across along the way, we’re quite happy to smooth over them with sheer adoration for the three women, almost 30 years later, still rocking a dance routine and the truth is, no one enjoyed Hocus Pocus for its tightly-knit storyline.

What was new for me this time though were the tears. The ending, which many have coined sappy and an attempt to de-witch the central villain, offers a poignancy and a new sentimentality that we didn’t experience in the original. We see our favourite witch in human form and, you know what, I kind of liked it.  Perhaps it is my age or my own forged relationships with the females in my life but I reveled in that sense of sisterhood.

“My powers are nothing without my sisters”

Winifred Sanderson

Hocus Pocus was a tough act to follow with an allegiance of fans now in their discerning 30s and pining after Max Dennison. The sequel didn’t quite put a spell on us but, the point is, it was never going to. The bittersweet-ness of growing up in the 90s is that we crave that feeling – that inexplicable warmth and sense of security that Hocus Pocus perfectly conjured up for us. As grown adults, those feelings are not as accessible as Disney+. They require a VHS player and the sound of a rewinding tape. But for me, a woman in her mid-thirties who is also now a fan of a child named Retinol, even if I wasn’t bewitched by this follow up, for 100 minutes or so I was reminded of that simpler time we’re all secretly longing for.

Sit Down Next to Me: A Mental Health Anthem

It may not boast the optimism of ‘I’m Still Standing’ or the anguish of ‘Everybody Hurts’ but perhaps what ‘Sit Down‘ offers is one better – empathy. There is certainly a time and place for a good old cry to REM or fleeting moments of empowerment when you declare that, like Elton, you’re still standing but there is always room for companionship, particularly when battling the relentless tide of mental health.

As messages of hope and change transmitted across radio stations for World Mental Health Day, James coincidently intervened beckoning us to sit next to him (the band and the song, that is. There wasn’t an actual man named James offering up a chair or anything). What, on the face of it, appears to be a boisterous song – one of those ‘laddish’ types perfectly akin to the 90’s britpop era – is actually completely profound and offers a sense of togetherness that anyone suffering from mental health issues needs.

Mental health awareness. The idea that we’re all in this together. We’ve got your back; for there is truly no lonelier place than under that dark cloud. The practicalities of this message are a little more complicated. Patience wanes and understanding gives way to frustration. Those suffering don’t seem to be helping themselves. In the throes of such despair, solutions aren’t necessarily sought – seemingly unrealistic notions that everything will be ok – but rather the reassurance that it’s ok not to be ok. This can, at times, seem counterintuitive. Is it ok not to be ok? Well no, it’s not ideal but actually it is ok. Because by casting further judgement on ourselves, asking unanswerable questions such as “Why me?”, we only create further pain.

And, of course, the writer of ‘Sit Down’ experienced his own form of internal struggle – how else could he identify so poignantly? Insomnia, chronic pain, mood swings, all these experiences subtly feature within the lyrics, painting the bleak picture of mental ill health.

As the songs builds to a climax and reaches its crux, those suffering from depression, its little shit of a cousin anxiety and those plagued by self doubt are invited to share their pain.

Those who feel a breath of sadness, sit down next to me.
Those who feels they’re touched by madness, sit down next to me.
Those who find themselves ridiculous, sit down next to me.

This simple gesture – sit down next to me – be it in silence, arm in arm or side by side is everything. The idea that someone is willing to even momentarily share your burden can mean so much more than any forced positivity. No one expects you to fix them. To someone who often feels touched by madness, I find such comfort, such hope in this invitation.

Music, decisively evocative in nature and our go-to to either dwell in self pity or reenergise our weary souls, often forms the soundtrack to our lives. And while there will be days that you’ll give in and bawl (because that’s also important) and others where you might triumph over your illness, this somewhere in the middle, with company, is the best place to be because ultimately “it’s hard to carry on when you’re feeling all alone”.

Cheers James, I’ll happily sit down next to you.

Great Hair, Better Movie: Why Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gelled With Me

When a Tarantino movie hits the big screen, it becomes kind of a big deal. It’s not just a case of ‘sure, we’ll find a stream for it at the weekend’; we mean business now. No shoddy camera work, no off-beat audio, no painful hanging-around-as-you-watch-your-husband-try-to-find-a-decent-link caper; this warrants a babysitter and a mid-week trip to the cinema.

As a now sort of rite of passage, I go with my sister and husband; although honestly I’m thinking of upgrading given their disappointment at our latest two flicks which, in my opinion, have been absolute gems. The problem, however, with going to see a movie on this scale is that the experience is almost tainted from the outset. Given the wide circulation of promo material and critic reviews, I watched in anticipation for a number of details that had I not been exposed to beforehand would undoubtedly never have occurred to me.

I studied Bruce Lee’s character for the brief time he was onscreen and queried his reportedly unfair portrayal; I felt I was counting the lines, or rumoured lack thereof, of Margot Robbie; I pondered over the apparent idolisation of the now infamous director Roman Polanski. And while I can confirm that Bruce Lee did come off as less than likeable, a sore point I’m sure for his family, I cannot join in on any #metoo sentiments over the latter critiques. To me, Polanski’s role felt minimal and I struggle to conceive how a historical and fictional idolisation of a man who was highly regarded at that time could be harmful. Similarly, I don’t view Margot’s ‘diaglogue-light’ role as either minimal or as a consequence of her female status. I believed her presence to be powerful and felt throughout.

This idea of gender bias has widely come into speculation given Tarantino’s supposed negative portrayal of female characters in this movie. Yes, most of the women seem to play the part of ‘psychotic creepy hippie’ but we meet our fair share of their equally unnerving male counterparts. Plus, that one role of the little girl who plays the extra is enough to restore any sense of imbalance in gender equality.

At the heart of the movie is, of course, the fairytale of Hollywood. The perceived glamour offset against the angst of those lucky enough to inhabit it. The vulnerability of Leonardo’s character – the movies centre piece – shines through as he battles anxiety over the future of his career. Though as we watch heartthrobs Brad, Kurt, Luke (RIP) (and their ridiculously great hair) continue to charm their audience, we can dispel any myth that Hollywood dislikes an ageing gent. Whether we can say the same for their female counterparts is another question – one which I am not prepared to answer.

The Hollywood dream of condos and pool parties is cleverly juxtaposed throughout with images of trailers and hairy pits. It’s the Hollywood Hills meets The Hills Have Eyes. This obvious contrast offers other subtleties, none more powerful than the idea of good versus evil. Touched upon in the movie, the idea that movies create monsters, endorsing and subsequently creating violence, is proffered as a justification by one of the assailants. In contrast to their heinous acts stands Tate’s character, offering only gentle words and smiles throughout. Her innocence, perfectly portrayed as she giggles watching herself on the big screen and offers lifts to hitchhikers, make her fate all the more heart-wrenching. This fate, which I admit kept me at the edge of my seat for over two and a half hours, was thankfully avoided in the film. While disappointing many in it’s inaccuracy, this alternative ending offered (at least, to me) a refreshing sense of justice which cannot ever be achieved or replicated outside of this creative realm.

For someone alien to Westerns and generally oblivious to Hollywood’s Golden Age, I found the piece to be completely compelling. I was lost in the by-gone era and happily so for 159 minutes, despite the fact that I prefer shorter films. And while my sister kept saying “but nothing’s happening”, it was in this that I found its appeal. There was no sense of urgency, only a story unfolding in the rare way that you don’t mind not knowing the ending.

In an era of seemingly endless animated Disney movies being remade using live action, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was able to offer a rare sense of charm and whimsy in spite of its dark roots and, although completely inaccurate in its depiction of events, gave us the fairytale ending every Once Upon a Time deserves.

What Straight A’s Mean Thirteen years later: Not Much

Nero was the last Roman Emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty; the Boston Matrix analyses a business’ product portfolio; the wife of Bath was married at the age of 12; and it was on the road to Damascus that Saint Paul underwent his spiritual conversion. A list of useless facts, yes, but also the few remnants of knowledge left from my A-Level studies in Ancient history, Business studies, English Literature and Religious Education respectively. This knowledge, hardly set to influence my future but rather my ability at that time to recall, apply and analyse such knowledge, would be pivotal to my future…or would it?

Often seen as the defining point of our education, our A-Levels mark that we’ve finally reached adulthood and are now capable of making life-altering decisions: Will you continue your academic journey into university? Will you bow out for some time to travel the world? Will you opt for immediate employment and save yourself a lifetime of debt? While many at this time, on results day, will focus on what to do if you don’t get the grades you had hoped for, I wish to proffer some advice to those who do. This seems counterintuitive – like giving money to the rich. Their futures seem bright. They’ve been given the opportunity to put their best foot forward. It’s the less fortunate, the disappointed and broken-hearted who need words of encouragement. In some way though, this too ought to comfort. The bottom line is you can achieve the best grades possible and get nowhere near where you had hoped you might be. The opposite is equally true.

Thirteen years ago, after receiving my A-Level results, I made the decision to pursue a degree in Law. I had neither the interest nor the intent of pursuing a career in this field but given its perception as a “sensible choice” and its potential for broad application, it seemed like the right thing to do. My heart yearned for English literature, as it still does now, but alas the head triumphed. My head, of all the heads, rife with confusion and indecision.

As a result of this decision and many more to come, I now stand in a job which I can proudly say is important. It matters and I would like to think that, on some small level, I make a difference to the lives of the people I work with. But the selfish part of me, which I admit dominates any selflessness I might possess, longs for that “dream job”, should such a thing exist. A career that not only utilises your greatest skills but also fills that void; that void that says “you were born to do this” and gives that sense of purpose we all crave in life.

Before this sounds like a tale of woe, much like the poor old wife of Bath, I am in no way disillusioned. The decisions I have made, whether wrongly or rightly, have led me to a place which I not only can appreciate but where I can continue to better myself. It’s just not my place. My place exists somewhere beyond the here and now and I’m certain I’ll arrive there when the time is right.

So, what I would say to you on this seemingly fateful day, just as Roxette once tried to tell herself, is “listen to your heart” (unless of course your heart leads you to degrees like The Art of Walking or Puppetry). Ignore the voices that lead to the purely “sensible choice”. A sensible choice can soon become foolish if the outcome in no way reflects you or your goals. Your dream might not yet be clear but at least if you follow your heart, and ultimately what interests you, you’re bound to be at least one step closer than me.

And to those who feel like their dreams have been shattered by today, consider me – 31 and still dreaming. Those results are no more a reflection of your ability or future than my law degree is a reflection of me. Time is still on your side.

…or we could just pack it in altogether and go to Australia. I hear it’s what all the cool kids are doing.

To Be or To Do, That is the Question: The Reality of Relaxing

Relax verb : ‘Make or become less tense or anxious.’

The concept of relaxation seems simple really. Everyone’s idea of it might vary slightly but generally we could all agree on what it looks like. ‘Chilling out’, ‘getting some down time’, ‘recharging my batteries’; all those familiar idioms we use interchangeably to paint a picture of relaxation.  And yet, it appears to be one of the most difficult things to do. I have recently found myself in a situation where I have been forced to relax. The very idea seems contradictory. ‘Force’, that is to apply pressure and ‘relax’, to relieve pressure, two opposing terms, put together to form one illogical notion.

Now, that’s not to say I’ve been handcuffed to a chair in a lavender-scented, candle-lit room with meditation muzak on loop. The handcuffs are, of course, metaphorical. I have allowed myself to become so crippled by anxiety that I’ve had to completely ground to a halt.

As I relay this to you, I am sitting on a chair outside. The sun is shining – a rare occurrence. I feel the heat of it against my skin. I observe the gentle breeze and the scent of freshly cut grass. I hear the occasional buzz of a bee doing its part for civilization. I note the cars further afield and imagine all those people coming and going. This scenario sounds like the ideal backdrop for relaxation but, sitting here, a casual observer, I do not feel relaxed; instead, I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. Why is that bee working harder than me? You don’t catch bees sitting around observing the noises we make. Surely, I should be in my car heading somewhere important to do something important. How dare I sit by idly and watch the world go by? The handcuffs now feel real. “Let me go and do something.”

I spot weeds, I tear them out (this is my new favourite thing). That breeze is perfect for laundry. There’s the ladder we borrowed from my father-in-law: I wonder could I wash the windows without killing myself? And with these thoughts come the not-so-sudden realisation but rather the stern reminder – I am completely incapable of doing nothing. The closest I can get to this is by putting these frustrations onto paper or, more accurately, my phone because I seem to have lost the ability to function without my phone. No doubt another contributing factor. 

I am, of course, not alone in this plight and daren’t suggest I’m in some way hard done by.  Given the fact that I have two young children, I am offered more “free time” than your average parent thanks to the support of my extended family. And yet, I find myself sometimes under the most pressure when given this opportunity. What can or should I be doing to make the most of this time? I might adopt an unconvincing guise of relaxation and wear a face mask while simultaneously hoovering or take a really long shower but only on the condition that I also clean it. It seems then that time is only well spent when in pursuit of some superficial goal and that it cannot simply be “free”. We are not afforded do not afford ourselves this luxury.

Whether this mind set is human nature or a product of modern day society I do not know – I’d imagine it is a combination of the two. All I know is that given my recent opportunity to relax I have found it almost impossible. When given a choice ‘to be’ or ‘to do’, the latter appears to be the option we’re more comfortable with which, seems to me, a very sad state of affairs.

Unlike that bee and his comrades, who we are so largely indebted to, we were not designed to buzz at a rate of 11,400 times per minute. We’re only human. And with that comes a need to buzz but also a need to just ‘bee’.


Weddings: What’s Worth Remembering & What You’ll Probably Forget

This is it. The big day. For some, the biggest. And should you choose not to avail of some form of sedative, you’re likely to experience a range of thoughts and feelings; from the seemingly trivial (but completely valid), “Are my hands a shade too brown?” to the more terrifying “Do I really want to spend the rest of my life with this man?” Yes, your hands probably are verging on that time Ross was an 8 but it is your God-given right on this day to make even a Kardashian look pale. As to spending the rest of your life with this one man, chances are you’ve made it this far for a reason. And if you change your mind, there’s always the bathroom window.

You’ll question whether you’ve done enough; whether you should have opted for the veil with the satin trim; whether you should have seated your friend next to his friend because of that one awkward time they woke up next to each other. These unanswerable questions are inevitable. After all, you’ve spent months planning this day; you’ve spent what could have been the deposit for your house on this day; you’ve ate nothing but quinoa and avocado dieting for this day.

Thankfully there’s an upside to the frightening picture I have thus far painted for you. Alongside these niggling, ultimately irrelevant worries are moments of complete bliss. Moments so perfect you wish you could take into your hand and hold. The details that consumed you for months on end will inevitably fade with time. You won’t recall which genus of flower formed the focal point of your bouquet – despite the headache coming to this decision gave you. You’ll forget which grape produced the gallons of table wine: in part because of your fading memory and in part because you drank too much of it. It is the memory of your husband-to-be’s face as you walked down the aisle; the image of that wonderfully gratifying expression that only a grandmother can make; the memory of your dad squeezing your hand a little too tight as he gives you away that will stand the test of time.

That’s why we seize the moment try to freeze it and own it, squeeze it and hold it. (Eminem, Sing for the Moment).

This is not to negate those finer details. I have no doubt they will make your day truly beautiful. The food will be sumptuous; your dress sensational; the music show-stopping but what is all this worth if, in the midst of all this splendor, you can’t behold the true beauty of this life-changing day?

My brother was married last week and, unfortunately, I could not be there. Their service was performed in his fiancé’s grandparent’s back garden with only a handful of adoring onlookers. His bride-to-be, being 8 months pregnant, could not find a suitable white dress in their local city (Brandon, Canada) and instead, she wore an above-the-knee, floral dress that perfectly accentuated her bump. He wore a corsage to match. Soft music played in the background – I’d imagine from a Spotify playlist. And within minutes they were married. Bound together for the rest of their lives and, watching from 4,000 miles away via Messenger, it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen.

In an era of wedding one-upmanship, it is easy to get caught up in the fuss of it all. No matter how low-key your intention (speaking from experience), the temptation to splurge greets you at every opportunity. The words of others “Oh, you must get a videographer” echo in your ear, leaving it hard not to feel in some way deficient if you don’t. As my second wedding anniversary comes around, I say “trust your instinct”. Slow down. Remember what this day is really about. Be as present in every moment as possible, for it is in these small moments that you will find the greatest treasure worth holding on to.

This is it. The big day. Enjoy every single moment.

(And yes, just to clarify, I did quote Eminem.)













Age Attacks When We Least Expect It

Most days come and go without a single acknowledgement of our age. Ageing, much like growing, happens so gradually that we drift along blissfully unaware of the fact that we are literally decaying. The lines embed that bit further, body parts might ache that bit more but on the whole we’re so oblivious to this that we manage to keep ourselves firmly in denial.

There are, however, some days like today that we’re offered a less than friendly reminder that we are not as young as we used to be. Before I continue and risk the wrath of anyone over 35, I am under no disillusion that I am “old”. I’m firmly on board with the idea that life begins at 40 and I’m truly convinced that my parents are having more fun than ever in their sixties. At the tender age of 31, I can still somewhat unconvincingly boast that I am young.

Back to the day in question. Much of my job consists of spending time with teenagers. I must note that these are not the very young and impressionable, so-awkward-it’s-cute 13 to 15 years olds but the generally miffed and unabashedly honest subsection of over sixteens.  In a typical day, transporting a youngster from A to B, we will battle over both volume control and radio station. I am, without exception, always the loser of this game and on this occasion a very loud Billie Eilish won. Billie warbled “I’m that bad type, make your mamma sad type, make your girlfriend mad tight, might seduce your dad type” and by the end of the 3:14 minutes not only was I firmly convinced that she was the Bad Guy but I was also a bit scared of her. As I heard myself actually say this out loud to the 17 year old girl in the front seat with the bright red, partly shaven DIY hair do, I thought “Christ, I’m old”.

Other insignificant but, on this day, seemingly exaggerated events nodded to my not-so-young-anymore age. I found myself trying to grab at the volume dial without being caught; I found myself willing for the news on the hour; and perhaps most telling of all, I found myself gutted that I was missing the Jeremy Vine show.

The moment, however, which I believe truly sealed my fate was when I declined to join my younger cohort for a Mc Donald’s and proceeded to whip out a miniature sized Tupperware with the Go Jetters on it filled with grapes. If, by now, she wasn’t already convinced that I was 100, this did the trick. I felt immediately disappointed in myself; like that wave that overcomes you when Tesco staff zoom into your face before clicking without any shadow of a doubt “Thinks customer is definitely 25 years old or over.” I always had visions of myself as a “cool mom”, the type Amy Poehler aspired to in Mean Girls as she rocked her pink velour tracksuit and heels. Instead I found myself as a modern day Mrs Doubtfire. The dungarees or width of my eyebrows were fooling no one.

n-AMY-POEHLER-COOL-MOM-628x314 (1)It’s strange, really. We can go through life taking steps that are deemed pretty “adult” without taking much cognisance of this. We might have a mortgage and two kids but it’s the realisation that you prefer The Jeremy Vine Show to chart music that really makes you feel your age. It’s seems then that the number is irrelevant.  Age really is nothing but a number. It’s the subtle reminders that we’ve changed that are much more affecting.  It’s the things that become so synonymous with ageing, like a distaste for loud music or certain musical genres, that speak volumes (no pun intended). Like the literal ageing process, these things happen so gradually (maybe it’s a decibel for every year) we fail to notice them until one day you’re hit with the realisation that you’re scared of a 17 year old girl purporting to be the “Bad Guy”.

Those clichés – “you’re as young as you feel” – have more truth than previously suspected. I’d imagine there’s a 70 year old out there somewhere munching on a Big Mac listening to Billie Eilish who feels much younger than me.  Though who’s to say opting for a packed lunch and Steve Wright’s Golden Oldies should make us any older? If that’s the case, I’ll happily settle for being old any day.

Far From Shallow: The Enduring Power of a Star is Born

*so many spoiler alerts*

Five days on and I remain under the spell of A Star is Born. First of I must unequivocally state that this is not a movie review. Not only I am far from equipped to comment on any fancy film-making concept relating to camerawork or staging, but my last movie “review” basically amounted to “you either love it or hate it”, which i’m sure you’ll agree is groundbreaking stuff. This is simply the expression of a feeling; a sense that this was something very special and the lingering impact it has had.


In life, it is rare to come across something that not only manages to capture us in a moment but stays with us once a moment passes. Visions of Cooper making goo goo eyes at Gaga etched in my brain; impromptu outbursts of “We’re far from the shallow now”; that feeling of mourning for Jack. This movie has stuck; to the extent that I have found myself nerding out to promotional interviews and critical reviews ever since. Moreover, it has actually driven me to write.

The story is tried and tested. Literally, as it serves as the fourth rendition of A Star is Born. To summarise: Boy meets girl. Boy serenades girl. Girl serenades boy. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy is on his way down. Girl is on her way up. Familiar as it may be, there was something so inherently raw and real about this. The backdrop may have been the stardom of two gorgeously talented human beings but there was little glamour about it.

The music is of course largely contributory to the hype that surrounds the movie. Before the tragedy of the story crushes your heart into microscopic pieces, the music will have you using your sleeve as a tissue. When Ally (Gaga) sets foot on that stage for the first time and Jackson (Cooper) looks on lovingly with his big Arizona eyes as she belts out “I’m off the deep end watch as I dive in”, you’re gone. Caput.

Particularly for me who loves a crooner and has very little interest in the current pop landscape, the music was a breath of fresh air. Between Jackson considering “Maybe it’s Time” to concluding he’s “Out of Time”, this rock and roll served as a welcome interlude. We can kind of understand why Jackson gets so pissed at Ally for singing that awful song about some guy coming around “with an ass like that.”

Within what appears to be a conventional love story, are themes that extend far beyond a whirlwind romance, some of which have more personal resonance than others. Jackson, a long suffering alcoholic, reveals glimpses of the trauma he endured as a child, setting the scene for the movie’s tragic ending. Ally demonstrates complete devotion throughout and is willing to sacrifice her own career in order to support her husband. In the end, Jackson takes his own life to avoid ruining hers and thus A Star is Born.

What might be even more remarkable than a drunk man remembering the lyrics to a song he’s heard only once, is the talent that oozes from these two individuals. As if Bradley Cooper didn’t seem perfect enough with his flowing sandy locks and ability to embody any character on screen, he now can sing flawlessly and direct, no doubt, an oscar winning movie. Similarly Gaga who we knew could write killer songs and perform like a goddess, can now also act and looks like perfection beneath her facade of stage makeup. It really puts into perspective my inability to whistle or follow the routine of a simple step class.

While much of the movie appears bound in tragedy, there is so much positivity to be derived from it. Talent is at its best when unfiltered; having a voice is power; being true to oneself is paramount; love extends far beyond our flaws.

In truth, had I of known the outcome of this film, I doubt I would have gone to see it. I tend to avoid anything that might cause me to feel too much which this did in bucket loads.  But I am glad I did. I’m glad I watched Ally sing that french song in the drag bar. I’m glad I watched Jackson peel off her makeshift eyebrows. I’m glad I watched their love blossom and come to its untimely end. I’m glad I watched A Star is Born.

So there you have it. A non review of a movie which I have just reviewed.

5 out of 5 stars.