Write about what you love (and do it with honesty)

I have just finished watching one of my favourite films, Stuck in Love. It’s one of those films that I have to watch every six months as my cinematic way of self-care. It helps me keep my feet on the ground and gently reminds me of where I’m going and what I want to do. It helps me remember that maybe I’m not doing so badly. It tells me this, specifically:

Write about what you love, and do it with honesty.

That’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. I want to write so graphically that you can feel what I feel. I want to write so cuttingly that half of you can’t stomach it, but the other half really wants to try. Most of all I just love the initial blank piece of paper in the middle of the night that turns into something else by morning. There’s so many possibilities of what can happen. Sometimes you have to trust yourself to roll with it.

My wanting has made me draft three new goals in 2018.

-The first is to be bold. Bolder and bolder again. (I actually took this from my best friend Rhianne while we were on the crosstrainer machine at Walthamstow Gym, not very bold of me, but bold to admit it, I think.)

-The second is to write more. As much as I can. Don’t be afraid to write badly.

-The third is to let myself be scared about stuff. Mainly by new experiences or bad writing (see point 2.)

I will keep you updated with how I’m getting on with these. With this blog, I may just achieve all three. I thought for a long time about how I could make a piece of writing scare me – I can be quite an unabashed person. And yet, I’m eating a bowl of coco shreddies (ready to tackle bowl 2) and thinking about how on Earth I can write in a way that scares me. It all came back to being honest. Write and write honestly.

What can I be honest about? My first thought was the people around me. I can be honest about why I love the shit out of them, but I don’t want it to be horribly cliche. I want it to be true and very short. Write just one thing I love about them, two at max (for there are many to list anyway), and whichever I happen to think of in this moment is what I shall write down. This concept scares me, and I‘m not sure why. So here it goes, let’s try it. This is my attempt to write about what I love, by writing about what I love, about the people I love.

I hope you love it.

The fam

Mum: ever since I was little I’ve loved the way my mum smells. Her skin smells like sweet cream, a sort of buttery, custardy warmth. If I had metamorphmagus like Nymphadora Tonks in Harry Potter, my hair would turn a calm sea green whenever I’m with (and can smell) my lovely mum.

Dad: when my dad wears his flap cap and big coat, he looks like an East End legend in a history book of the Blitz or something. The black and white photo effect suits him more than anyone I know. It’s something about his eyes and his stories, I think.

Granddad: my granddad is obsessed with making the sons of the family order him jazz CD’s from amazon. He keeps them all in neat trays in his living room in South Wales – he has hundreds. I think he’s listened to every one. It was also from my granddad that I learnt that in the army the men called a wank a ‘Jay Arthur.’

Katie: my sister has this fiery energy that can light up a room. She is fierce and tough and will stand up for me against anyone. Even against a battlefield of sophie haters swinging swords with venom, my sister will be ready. She will take them all on and win, then down a bottle of cherry lambrini to celebrate the victory.

Jack: when he is wrapped up in conversation, he uses his hands to express himself whilst he’s talking. They’re captivating. He’ll ask you thoughtful questions and is genuinely interested in your answer. I love that Jack can get fully distracted by the TV for hours and zone out to the extent that he won’t hear his name being called, but when he gives you his attention, he gives you all of it.

Tom: a rebel without a cause and our family’s very own James Dean, Tom is a man of few words, but the words he does say are nothing short of brilliant. Tom also hums when he eats, he has done since he was little (and doesn’t know he does it) which I find so adorable I can’t even cope.

Ben: I am a classic little sister case with Benny Boy (or Bur-Bur, as I have referred to him when I was a toddler and couldn’t talk properly.) I think he is the funniest person in the world. He can do anything, and particularly excels in practical labour. Don’t tell him this, but I idolise him completely – except when he comes home from work and yells at me about the dishwasher.

The girl and the best friends

Jo: I could watch Jo have a laughing fit all day. Her back on the bed, her cheeks a rosy red, absolutely belly laughing so much she can barely breathe. Later on this can become concerning because she does have delicate lungs, however in the moment it’s one of my favourite things to witness ever (particularly if I’m the cause of the racket.) Jo also reads books four times faster than I can, which is annoyingly attractive.

Rhianne: she is a completely and utterly no-nonsense woman and she doesn’t give a shit, but when she gives you a compliment you feel it with your whole being. Rhianne is quick, witty and when she laughs you immediately join in, she is so endearing. She also wears black and baggy coats/jumpers like they were made for her to wear them. Uh, my queen.

Sara: she is so emotional is Sara, and very openly so. She is proud of it. She will shout about what she believes in (as her dad encouraged her to do growing up), but she also has an innate ability to listen and understand those that don’t always understand her. I need to also mention our car chats. Parked stationary outside of my house, usually in the dark, our car chats make me very happy and keep me sane. (I feel like this is more than one, but it’s difficult not to elaborate.)

Harriet: every time I think of Harriet, in my head she is always in the same position. She’s sunk into her the sofa at her house wearing her fluffy pink dressing gown and slippers with her hand curled round a cup of tea in a polkadot mug. She is most likely watching Corrie and she isn’t a fan of the script at all. This vision is accurate and one of the many reasons why Harriet is my oldest friend. (Might I add that her tea is also ground-breaking.)

Charlotte: she does cracking impressions of celebs (and our former school dinner ladies) and is literally one of the wackiest and bravest people I have the pleasure to know. I will never forget in like 2006 when someone stole my purse in Vue Cinema Romford and Charlotte marched over to the gang of the perpetrators sitting in one of the cinema rows and demanded they give my purse back. I stayed sitting in my seat, too scared to ask. I actually can’t remember how this situation even came about, but it was scarring at the time. Charlotte got my purse back. To this day she has been my hero, straight outta Dagenham.

Katie G: you may think this Pompeii girl is shy and timid, but once you hear the sharp tongue on her you will never ever forget her amazing wrath and pointing finger (whilst she slurs ‘ya c*nt.’) Katie is a blinder of a poet and she’s going to make mega bucks from it one day playing in some insanely cool venues, but she’ll stay grounded. I know she will. How do I know this? Because I can always count on Katie for being up for a rolled fag and a cold pint with me at the Coborn Arms in the pissing rain or burning sun. It’s the mark of a great character.

Liz: she was my greatest discovery of 2016, and for the first time in my life when she returned back to her native Australia, London felt a little less like home. Liz is tenacious, her humour is brutal (but not as offensive as mine), her music taste is pure fire, plus she wears a big yellow scarf which she knitted herself. She doesn’t just know how to have a good time – she is THE good time, with £3 pizza takeaway included. I frequently think about our inevitable reunion and catch all the thirsty feels. Whenever or wherever it happens, my tears will turn her emotionless self to mush. I know it.

I wrote about what I loved honestly, even though it was scary. All in all, I strangely feel a lot better for it. I love more people than this, of course, and as for the people mentioned here I love far more about them than I have mentioned. My thoughts are I can’t go dishing out too many compliments in one go, can I? It’s only January after all, and I can’t let people think I’m all sugar and no spice.

I plan to write again very soon, keeping align with the same tone of my three goals for 2018: Be bold. Write more (and badly) and do more of what scares me shitless. As for 2018, I know this year will be a defining one for me so far. And even though I am terrified beyond my wits, I honestly can’t wait.

© Sophie Grace Hollis 2019. All rights reserved.

A really fucking boring subject, plus pecan plaits

I’ve sat down to write for the first time in a long time. With my brother’s soft old swimming hoodie on, speedo pyjama shorts sliding off my arse and a shower beckoning, I don’t look aesthetically attractive today. Yet somehow, I feel deeply sexy and full of Ruby Wax confidence. No one can smear this smirky smile from my face. If I was Romeo and the Prince banished me from Verona to the shithole that is Mantua, I would tell princey to fuck himself and drop a text my boy Benvolio ‘where you at x’.

My surroundings: sofa, guitar, empty coffee mug, fruit bowl I got my mum from Berlin with mouldy bananas in. I’m listening to Middle East – Deep Water. A new song to my ears, and it’s going down damn well you know. I’m knee-deep in that secret part of YouTube where the comment box is littered with seventeen-year-old teens full of angst and self-loathing writing ‘tiffany if you’re reading this I think your eyes are like the ocean and I’m drowning ilysm’, with the occasional estranged forty-two-year-old divorcee trying to recapture what it’s like to feel young and alive. I don’t want to mock my fellow lost symphonic YouTubers at all really. I know why they came. I love this place like they do. And I don’t ever want to find my way back home.

What am I going to write about today? Time management. Your facial expression tells me that’s a really fucking boring subject; you’ve already checked out. Your mind’s on that Tesco’s finest lemon meringue in the fringe – your dessert while you’re watching Love Island. Can’t say that’s not a grand idea to be fair. But first, give a hen some time management. Hear me out. I’m not about to urge you to recreate your year 9 school planner on excel, split into days and months of the year. Remember? Each box was small and blank. Too neat. I never found it motivating at all. It just made me feel guilty, because I knew I should be doing something each day other than going to school, eating and sleeping and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Dick and Dom in da bungalow on Sundays). I just didn’t know what to do. And I still don’t entirely know what I’m meant to do being now.

This is me to a T: I’m constantly stuck in a paradox of wanting to be productive, but not being SO productive that I’m forever busy and losing sight of living. I don’t want to repeat the same day over and over. I want to grasp experiences with both hands and say I was really there, not trapped behind my phone. I want to dedicate time at work. But I want to be spontaneous. I’ve been to lots of cities and I want to go to more and more. And I want to be able to get to know new, interesting people and ask them questions. But that doesn’t mean I’m not impartial to being an aggressive recluse like J.D Salinger style. Sometimes I like not leaving the house, only eating microwave meals and clocking in a mere 19 steps on my iPhone health app. It’s a tough crack to be so fucking fluid.

So here’s little free things that I’ve unconsciously followed these past 6 months to work towards my short-term and long-term goals and maintain a positive outlook.

 

  • Check in with those you really love.

Some weeks I won’t text my girlfriend for a few days. We like to have ‘ghandi days’ where we take time for ourselves and completely turn off from technology. It helps both of us spend time with our families (Maxine-time is golden) or our wonderful friends. It also means I can reconnect with my inner recluse. And plus I enjoy making myself laugh when no one else is around and exercising those cutie dimples.

  • Regroup: watch your old favourite film, then watch something new

Everyone loves art that is familiar to them, so let yourself love your favourite film a little obsessively harder every once in a while. (Key phrase: ‘every one in a while’ – not every day until 4am like I did with Gary Oldman’s entire filmography.) My usual suspects are: Silence of the Lambs. Love Actually. The Scarlet Letter. And if I’m feeling 90s American vibes, either The Parent Trap or Little Giants. And incidentally, The Usual Suspects. Laugh at the same jokes, revel at time-passed. Then, balance your old favourite with a new film you’ve been meaning to watch in order to broaden your film buff. Film culture is inherently important – and not just for pub quizzes. Let it be known that your children will be severely deprived of happiness and cultural references if you haven’t seen cult classics like True Romance or When Harry Met Sally. 

  • Get papery

Today is a papery day. These days involve anything to do with paper. It may sound medieval, however – it is long overdue. Locate your pen. Write in your diary about your thoughts on literally anything, write a blog post (even if you don’t publish it), write crappy romantic poems, write letters to the legends in your life who you want to squeeze the fuck out of and bury your nose in the thighs of a book. Doesn’t it feel so delectable? Oh, it does.

  • Probably shower

I know it’s mundane, but you gotta be clean for society. That’s how people live these days. I could happily not shower for three days and not bat an eyelid but this is not recommended if you a) live in London/any busy city and have your armpits in other people’s faces on public transport b) want to have regular copulation. There are benefits. I have found that showers are the ultimate cure of colds and headaches, and you can smell like a flower-bed OR bubblegum. So get scrubbing girl – it’s good for you.

  • A pecan plait a week keeps me upbeat

This is my go-to happy food. Pecan plaits. They’re found in the bakery aisle of any popular supermarket, and they come in packets of two so I can have one in the morning or evening, or even potentially share. God forbid, the latter is rare. Pecan plaits are for fiery bitches that know exactly what they want and are gonna get it for under £1.80. The Hummingbird bakery can’t make pastry taste this fine, no matter how much Gwyneth tries. (Give it up Gwyneth.) Now – your happy food might be Terry’s chocolate orange or meaty chorizo that looks like the BFG’s finger. Whatever it is, scoff it weekly and proceed to do epic shit.

  • Be at one outside (not the cocktail bar, however this is also a good idea)

I’m referring to the actual outside environment. You don’t have to go full Adam and Eve and walk barefoot in bushes and bite into wild apples while you converse with Satan. Rather, I’m lightly suggesting that you have a wander outside on untrodden paths in wellies with a cup of tea and breathe in some fresh air. My favourite pastime is to travel north regularly/or for want of a cheaper and tackier version, visit my caravan in Suffolk, and wear North Face clothing because it makes me feel like Micheala Strachan. And she’s a mythical icon of nature don’t you know. (Oh you didn’t know? Fair.)

  • Keep giving your goals a pervy once-over

You need to look at them hard and be critical. But of course, to review your goals, you need to set goals. So if you haven’t, once again PLEASE LOCATE YOUR BLOODY PEN. Go ahead and set your goals to achieve in the next 3 months, year and 3 years. They can be both personal and work-related, or a combination of the two. Structure it like a mind-map, and scribble down everything you’ve ever wanted to achieve in your life in 5 minutes. Go wild, because there’s no judgement here. You can tweak them later when it comes to putting a time-limit on them. I don’t mean to be rude but it’s unlikely you’re going to own a cow in the next 3 months. Make them SMART like your teachers told you back in the day: (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time – yaaaaas honey look at you go.)

Alternatively, if you’re a diary/planner kind of lass, check out Passion Planner. They helped me set my goals and now it’s my time-management bible with my own personal ten commandments. (And no clingy Peter – bonus.)

  • Don’t stop until you’re proud

Self explanatory and motivating in equal measure. Be the person that’s always in your own corner, every day of the week.

I didn’t intend this to be an advice blog, and I fully understand if you don’t want to follow these steps. I am, after all, a scruffy 22 year old woman trying to find my own way through this haphazard world just like you. However, one thing you overlooked. Your back is mine.

All best.

S

 

I’m calling you out on your double standard bullshit

It’s been an interesting and long week in politics, and I almost can’t be arsed to write this article because I’m sick of talking about it, of hearing Donald Trump’s name one more time, of hearing anything political at all because it’s all gone to shit. But I’ll write it anyway, hold tight.

Last week, on 21st January, I attended the Women’s March in London. Photographs from the event were shared on newspapers globally, the signs people created were hilarious, moving, scary and highly emotional. Every day since there has been a backlash of criticism from both men and women; unexpected repercussions, anger, hateful and bitter responses to peaceful protests by over 3.2 million women worldwide, a phenomenal feat in itself.

Of course, this week also marked Donald Trump’s first week in office as the 45th US president, and every day he has done something more hideous than the day before it. For republican voters, at least, he appears to be keeping his word about his main controversial policies throughout his US presidency campaign. The first construction building of a wall between the Mexican border and the US will begin in a few months. The US government has stopped funding for organisation’s that offer abortions, making it more difficult for women to access them, particularly in third world countries. And, of course, Trump is expected to activate a temporary blocking of tourists, refugees and asylum seekers to enter to the US from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, which is ironically the middle Eastern countries that the US has recently bombed. Causing havoc, starting fires and shutting the door behind them.

What have we gathered from this?

Donald Trump is exactly who he said he was. One week of Trump as president down, 207 to go.

The dangers of white feminism

Already one month into the new year, my beliefs have been continually questioned and scoffed at by both men and by women for a number of different reasons. I am a white feminist, and that itself is a problematic statement. I have never suffered greatly. I am privileged with being born with white skin in the UK, I am privileged that I have received a good education and that I attended a good university. I am preivileged that I have access to free healthcare (for now, the protection of our NHS is for another debate, and I’m not the right person to write it!). I am privileged that, as a woman, I am able to represent my country at the Olympic Games (if I had the abilities to do so), I am privileged to never have been mentally or physically abused or raped, and I am privileged to have a platform where my voice can be listened to, if I scream loud enough. I could go on.

I am privileged, in more ways than I am not. I am privileged more than black women, brown women, Muslim women and women from other religious minorities. I am privileged more than disabled women, women with mental health issues, trans women, gay and queer women and other members in the LGBTQ+ community. These people are my sisters, and yet I am more privileged than them. And that can be a hard fact to accept – but we must accept it. We must accept that way more white women in America than any other female minority group voted for President Trump. I must accept that, even now, white women are celebrated for noting basic observations that black and brown women have already made about events such as the women’s march. We milk the benefits of being white, physically and metaphorically. I once read by a black woman that the first thing we can do to rectify this as a white feminist is to accept that this is true. White privilege is real, and we need to consciously remember it.

Feminism isn’t anything if it is not a discussion, from one community to another. It is a process of understanding. It is a journey of listening and reflecting. It is not about a group of white women woohoo’ing their pussy in “anti-trump” spite and trying to pull him out of office, damaging democracy irreparably, as I heard many people argue that’s what the women’s marches were. And in some cases they weren’t wrong.

But, me? I marched with a unity of diverse women AND men standing up for other women whose voices cannot be heard, when their rights as well as my own are being belittled and demeaned. If you haven’t read the spine tingling article by Dina Leygerman titled “You are not equal. I’m Sorry” written in response to an American woman stating she did not feel like a second-class citizen in America by being a woman, I suggest you read it now here, because this is the sort of thing I am getting at.

Everyday realities

Most of all, though, this week has shown me that we still have such a long way to go – even as accepting and open millennials. And I’m going to give you an example which happened to me this week.

Firstly, I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and on a number of occasions I have been verbally abused because of that identity. At times I have been made to feel that I cannot be myself in public because of that identity, that I cannot sit in the church I grew up going to without blood on my hands – something that I am still overcoming now. And I was recently in a discussion with my lovely close friends (both of whom are women with boyfriends) where I was told that they did not consider kissing a woman as cheating, even though they were in a relationship.

Now, I am aware that every relationship is different – everyone has their own boundaries of what “cheating” is, which you and your partner should discuss and come to an agreement on. You may be in an open relationship, or you may have agreed that kissing someone whilst drunk doesn’t count as cheating. In these cases, there is nothing wrong because that is the nature of your relationship. That is your decision, and I respect it.

However, what severely offended and hurt me was that their version of “cheating” changed depending on the gender of the person they kissed. “It didn’t matter if I kissed a woman, it doesn’t mean anything”, they said, with absolute certainty that they were right. They exchanged looks like they got each other, and I was the one that didn’t understand them. They repeated it, even though I argued that the physical action of kissing was still the same whether you kissed a man or whether you kissed a woman. Because this act of kissing should be treated in the exact same severity as definitely cheating, or absolutely not cheating, as determined by what you and your partner have defined as “cheating”.

You with me?

Women kissing women should not be given special treatment. This should not be okay in your boyfriend’s eyes when he thinks kissing another man is not. He should not be so furious that you kissed another man that he doesn’t talk to you for a week, and yet when you kiss another woman he doesn’t give a shit. He texts you ‘all good babe x’ and the case is closed. He will probably let you do it again or, even worse, he might ask if the woman you kissed wouldn’t mind joining in next time.

And these double standards are damaging.

The reason your boyfriend doesn’t give a toss is because he literally is giving a toss over your girl-on-girl action. He is reducing the intimate and loving act of a woman kissing another woman as to being nothing but hot. It’s sexy. It’s so fucking nice to watch, and you can keep doing it again, and again, and again because it’s giving him an erection and you want to satisfy him – so whatever, it’s cool.

Well, it’s not cool. This ‘girl-on-girl’ action, drunk or sober, is someone else’s reality. Mine.

I can’t blame my two female friends. This is the heteronormative society we have grown up in. Being straight is normal in the mindset we subconsciously exist in. It’s an automatic roll of the eyes, “ugh, obviously”. It’s where you’re presumed straight until you finally work up the courage to come out the closet and in the celebrity world that announcement becomes breaking news – above the NHS crisis on patients dying through lack of care and lack of funds, or even above the rise of homelessness in our streets. It’s where the LGBTQ+ community around the world are still fighting for the right to marry, adopt children, share the same taxes, or even narrowly escape the death penalty because of who they are. It’s where identifying as anything other than straight is either okay because it gives some stranger sexual pleasure or it’s insulted because it’s just plain wrong. Not the gospel, not right. In the LGBTQ+ community we are either sensual or disgusting, and there is no in-between.

I am so sick of this attitude and having to explain myself, of being boxed in a different category of “other” in society. Of having to validate my two and half year relationship with my girlfriend, which has been demeaned and oppressed because of what society thinks is hot. Of our love somehow being construed differently because of who we are, not as strong – not quite as right – just a phase – or maybe just damn greedy – issues that we would not face if we were in a heterosexual relationship.  I am so sick of it.

If you kiss a man and you have a boyfriend, that should be considered in the same weight as if you kissed a woman. Period. They should have the same affect. One should not be okay, when the other is not, one should not be Porn Hub material and the other a break-up ultimatum. Treat all relationships the fucking same, raise girls and boys the same, and check your straight, white fucking privilege. Please.

These are issues that I marched to protect on 21st January, and I will continue to march for, passionately and unapologetically myself.

For the record, my two friends are kind. They are good people, they are funny and I love them. This is merely an article to address an issue which I feel is continually ignored in the hope that we can change it. Above all, I strongly believe that progress in our society is only made through discomfort – our realisation that we, you, I or everyone fucked up. Ali Tharrington’s wise words “discomfort means you’re human and you’re on the move” summarises this perfectly. Therefore, I will not stay silent about this everyday discrimination any longer.

Please spread the word by sharing this article.

Ta, Sophie x

From Sophie with love: An average ode to Bridget Jones

I’ve never understood how an actress who drunk sweet tea at rodeos in her home-state of Texas could be so in touch with me, a girl born in Rush Green hospital in Dagenham on an average Thursday. On an above average Saturday (31st Sep) I watched the third Bridget Jones film, Bridget Jones’s Baby, released sixteen years after the first one. I saw it with my mum after weeks of saying we’d book it and go. We finally got round to it, we paid the extortionate price, we went. (On a side-note I fucking hate you Odeon and your £4.75 dry arse regular popcorn, you’re a shit show and you should be ashamed of yourselves.) By the end of the film I was squeezing my mum’s hand and making sounds I don’t think I’ve ever made. I’ve since concluded that the majority of the pennies paid was worth it just to watch Renee Zellweger saunter onto the screen as Bridget Jones with a few more laugh lines but still rocking it, whatever ‘it’ was.

Cue the Daniel Cleaver: “Oh how I’ve missed you, Jones.”

Renee puts on that accent and she wanders around London streets with bad hair days and oversized coats, or even fluffy blue cardigans and no underwear, and suddenly the old photos of the first films are relics from my angsty teen years. Bridget Jones is my big sister, my crazy auntie and a part of me all in one catastrophe of a woman with cracking tits and the cosy apartment next to Borough market that I’ve always yearned for.

But, before I get knee-deep in things, I’m going to be honest. I’ve approached this article with some trepidation. It’s not meant to be a review of the film, and it’s not meant to be too political about women and real expectations either. I don’t know what I’m going for, or how on earth to start it (and technically haven’t I already started it?), or how I can possibly organise my wayward thoughts about Bridget into a correct structure. This paragraph should’ve come at the beginning, dammit, and I want to get this right… for me, not so much for you. Sorry. I’m nervous, for some reason.

I’ve read countless attempts by journalists to pinpoint exactly who Bridget Jones is and what she means to millions of women worldwide. She is a breath of fresh air, she is an anomaly, she makes mistakes (and often really fucking embarrassing ones.) She is not a pretty crier and she is not skinny. She smokes like a chimney and is terrible at public speaking. She falls for classically handsome men with doting English charm who fuck her around, literally. She probably relies too much on men for her own happiness. She fails, fails and fails again, until she is soaked to the bone outside in the rain, having locked herself out of her house. And yet she gets through it, somehow, all by herself (just a subtle reference to the song she sings in her pyjamas, glass of wine in hand.) I’ve read these articles, and these claims are true. But maybe they haven’t quite covered everything, and certainly not about what she means to me anyway.

‘I’ve met someone that makes me feel seasick. Oh what a skill to have, oh what a skill to have so many skills that make her distinctive, but they’re not mine to have, no they’re not mine…’

Kill the Director by The Wombats was the anthem of my 2008, full of ice cream in South Woodford and playing Guitar Hero until 3 AM. It was a time when I wore deep purple skinny jeans with converses, cardigans from H&M and thick eyeliner that looked shit. I yelled ‘THIS IS NO BRIDGET JONES, THIS IS NO BRIDGET-BRIDGET’ as I stomped on the slippery wooden floor of my dining room, woozy on WKD and peach vodka at my year 10 house parties. I listened to that song before I raced at swimming galas. There I was, standing behind the blocks and pushing my goggles hard into my face, praying that the adrenaline from the banging beat would help me swim faster because I hadn’t trained all that hard.

Bridget did her best for me. I won three races in eight years. Not bad for an average girl.

Not bad for an average girl? Now isn’t the time to fight my fight and say I’m not, or that Bridget isn’t either. Let’s be real – hasn’t Bridget Jones always been victorious for the average girls? What is she if she isn’t a big fuck you to the suffocating pressure and cuntish male gaze, the media and society’s expectations of women should be? She’s average because she’s not quite as picture perfect as Blake Lively but she’s still pretty. Not so much a worldie but undoubtedly a wild one, a pink blossom who grows on you overtime. She’s spontaneous and bitingly funny, if sometimes accidentally so and mostly at her expense. She isn’t afraid to make a fool of herself or to resort to drinking and drinking often, or having great sex with the same philosophy. She’s the type of woman that knows exactly what go hard or go home means but she’ll happily go home if she wants to, with or without your permission. She is constantly having to prove her worth to others, and she’s continually surprised with her achievements, even though she is always willing to try. She’ll have a go at things and pay the price later, whether it’s bad or good.

Over the years I’ve invested a lot of acceptance with myself because of Bridget Jones. Helen Fielding’s fictional character originally started as a column in The Independent the year I was born. So it felt kind of like a coming-of-age film watching Bridget Jones’s Baby at twenty-one with my mum to the right next to me, always and forever my right hand (wo)man. The final supper with Jesus vibes.

I smile and reminisce at the things Bridget has said over the years, like the time she walked into a posh barrister’s office in The Edge of Reason announcing “I love you and I always have and I always will” only to realise that the man was not her intended Mark Darcy, but a near 80-year-old man. “I do not love you and I never have and I never will” she says frankly, and makes her leave. Ah, that’s my girl, I think, and that’s the type of girl I want to be.

But what am I now? Sophie: scruffy, sometimes loud, I say all the wrong things at the wrong time. I’ve made the Hermione hurricane of bad wardrobe choices. I’ve fallen head first in mud in front of hundreds of onlookers. I offered a biscuit to a man on the hard shoulder of the motorway, the same guy who actually crashed into (and destroyed) my car, just because I didn’t know what else to do.

Am I Bridget Jones, the real life millennial version, trying to get my shit together? I’ve dressed up as her on two occasions, once for a fancy dress party and the other for a university drama performance. Both times I wore a red jumper with snowman knitted onto it and a sleeping mask with the letters ‘FUCK OFF’ embellished into the satin. A mediocre attempt, really. But like Bridget, I’m not bad for an average girl. As it turns out, I like being an average girl. I find there’s a sweetness to Bridget’s trial and error take on life, and hope in knowing that she’ll get there in the end. I’d like to think the same about me. No more New Year’s resolutions.

Now Bridget Jones has ascended into our culture so firmly that she is referred to in conversations and songs like she was an old treasured friend or a dear sister. And it’s because we aspire to have her spice, her openness to fucking up, her ruthless honesty and maybe her dashing Mark Darcy in a reindeer jumper. Whatever it is, the average girl has turned out to be the desired woman, and she is slaying at her average life.

So this is an ode to you Renee and most of all to you, Bridget Jones. Thank you.

© Sophie Grace Hollis 2019. All rights reserved.

Sophie in the Office with Rhys Ifans

Some days, working in a busy London office can seem relatively normal. I nod to people as I slip towards my desk in the mornings, and I sip my instant coffee in a mug that isn’t mine, all in a happy daze that four days a week I am a working woman, just a bit broke. And I find that my work is totally amazing in a very mundane sort of way. There is such joy in fluorescent pink post-it notes and having your very own company-brand pen. There is overwhelming happiness in my Boots meal-deal cheese and onion sandwich. And sending e-mails with my signature and job title at the bottom makes me feel slightly important, to the point that sometimes I crave to screenshot it and send a text to my my mum saying ‘look mum! Look how professional I am!’ followed by the emoji of a sexy girl salsa-dancing in a red dress.

Other days, office life is a claustrophobic nightmare which gives me damn anxiety. As soon as the lift clangs shut on the ground floor, I know I’m alone, if only for a few moments. In the beginning I thought I was being filmed and I looked around for a camera – and sighed with relief when there is no Truman-show-prank in sight. Now I hurriedly swivel to stare at my reflection in the mirror and internally wish my untameable hair was a cool-kinda-scruffy rather than a homeless-kinda-scruffy. ‘I look like a fucking tramp,’ I whisper to myself, and no amount of confident reassurance can disguise the horror in my voice. I really should’ve put make-up on. This shirt has a spaghetti bolognaise stain on it. Why do I still have a stye on my bloody eye and how can I silently reassure my colleagues that I swear to God, it’s really not pink-eye?

I was originally going for the Juno Temple look wearing black mum jeans, a green Harrington jacket and docs – casually kooky and occasionally cute. But my jeans are too tight and my docs are shredding my skin to the fucking bone. Instead, I realise I’m the long-lost daughter of Rhys Ifans’ character in Notting Hill. A whirlwind of mistakes, but with some cracking pyjamas and one-liners.

A few seconds later and still too soon the lift doors spring open. I resolve to ‘fuck it’ and walk out, because it’s 9:01 AM and I need to naturally saunter like I’m on top of my life. Which I am, of course. Whatever gave you the idea that I wasn’t? Strangers eyes flicker over computers, morning small-talk drifts in and out of my ears and I’m smiling.

Yes, offices can be strange phenomenons, and even bubbles. And yes, I look like Rhys Ifans’ disgusting daughter. Only today, my dad is Gavin Kavanagh from the Boat that Rocked. I might just be the coolest kid in here.

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness or full-time employment?

As a newly graduate, there is a huge stigma surrounding job-hunting. Finding a full-time job after you’ve thrown your hat into the air seems like a natural step for many of us, and yet not all of us want it. Yesterday I was offered a full-time job as a junior marketing associate with a top London marketing agency. At my third and final interview last night, after a gruelling day completing tasks and answering questions, the manager humbly told me that the company get sent over two hundred CVs a day. In other words, I should be thrilled that I managed to get to this stage, and trust me, I was. The starting salary was £18k, the company train you from day one, and the manager was unbelievably hot. However, I emailed him this morning and I turned the job down.

Rather than mentally torture myself for doing so, I am completely and utterly over the moon. Let me explain why.

I have always seen myself becoming a writer. Of course, that’s a notoriously loose term. The amount of times I’ve scrolled through Tumblr and seen ‘[insert name], [insert age], writer’ on the top of someone’s bio is staggering. Technically, you are a writer even if the extent of your writing goes in your diary. It may be sealed away from the public eye, but your thoughts are still written on a page. Surely, logic suggests then that you are not lying when you state that you are ‘a writer.’

I write in my diary and I frequently write articles for online publications. I also write plays, short stories and shitty poems when I feel like it. The ultimate dream would be to get paid for doing so and become the hippy, next-generation version of J.K Rowling. This probably might not happen, but it could. With this in mind, I settled for applying to editorial assistant and junior copywriter jobs. They allow me to write articles, edit website content and, in some cases, manage social media. This is as close to my dream as I can get right now.

You can imagine how surprised I was when the job I applied for online as a junior marketing associate role turned out to be working in sales. I was told I would be based in busy shopping centres around London, talking to people as they passed by and attempting to recruit them to sign up to one of our clients’ brands. New customers meant more money, and it didn’t take an SEO or marketing expert to work it out.

Rather than writing about politics and social issues that matter to young people, and helping understand myself in the process, this job entailed me enabling rich people to become richer as they sat behind their desks. The salary was tempting, and so were the suave suits I would be wearing, but I did not want that. I knew if I took the job, ten months down the line my pursuit of writing would be a distant memory.

After getting the job, I spent all night weighing up my options about my future. Wales won, but I was not happy. I tried to envision where I saw myself in ten years, and if the short term and long term goals I wrote down in my interview were true. I asked myself if I was lying to the manager and to myself, in order to get the job. And I realised, just in time, that I was. I have always found that there is a strong correlation between full-time employment and individual happiness. On another day, perhaps I would’ve taken the job over my happiness for the sake of the experience looking impressive on my CV, or for the sake of living comfortably with a steady income. Thankfully today I didn’t, and I am so proud of myself.

gary