We send millions of texts, emails and WhatsApps, but the phone call is steadily dying out. When did it stop being good to talk, asks Daisy Buchanan
I’m reading Hanging Up by Delia Ephron. It’s a novel about three sisters, their complicated family dynamic, and the rather tricky transition period between youth and advanced adulthood. But it’s also an ode to the telephone; each character spends more time on it in a day than I do in a year. When I was a teenager, all I wanted was a phone of my own. If Future Me had told Teen Me that I’d own one, and never call my friends on it, I would have been horrified. Yet when a new acquaintance recently asked if she could ring me for a chat, I responded as if she’d asked for my PIN. I will only take phone calls from blood relatives, and even that’s under some duress.
In 2017, the number of mobile phone calls fell for the first time.* We’ve clearly fallen out of love with phone conversations – even though many of us grew up romanticising the receiver (remember the board game Dream Phone?). Like me, you probably had an argument with a parent about a phone bill, where the expression ‘not made of money’ came up – or my father’s favourite: ‘You’ve been at school with them all day, what can you possibly have to talk about?’ So, when did our telephone mania become a phobia?
According to behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings, the shift is due to the growing number of communication options. ‘It was shaped by the onset of text messaging, followed by WhatsApp messages and voice notes, PMs on Facebook, DMs on Twitter, Snapchat and emojis – we have adapted the art of conversation to a written rather than spoken form,’ she says. Plus, we’re out of practice. ‘People are losing the skills of proper phone conversation,’ she adds. ‘We fear interrupting someone, there’s a lack of confidence in what we’re going to say and there’s no time to think of a witty written response.’
‘If this is the information age, it makes sense that the phone call is being phased out in favour of other methods of sharing data more quickly’
Interestingly, we still have an appetite for the aural. According to estimates, since WhatsApp launched the voice notes feature in 2013, over 200 million are sent every day. It’s easy to see the appeal. You have more intimacy than you do with a written message, but you don’t have to respond to any unexpected information, and you can delete what you said and say it again.
If this is the information age, it makes sense that the phone call is being phased out in favour of other methods of sharing data more quickly. But if we’re losing faith in it, maybe we’re losing faith in what we have to say. Emails, DMs and voice notes allow us to filter our personalities. Choosing to speak on the phone takes courage. But, as Hemmings says, ‘Those of us who do cherish phone calls will remember the fun and soul-bearing conversations with deep affection.’
While technology has made us feel as though the phone call is anachronistic, it might be revived by our thirst for nostalgia. Science writer Elizabeth Stinson predicted a renaissance, citing, ‘a renewed desire for authentic communication’. When I was a teenager, the phone felt like a life line. Those intense conversations formed the core of my friendships and helped me to learn about the woman I’d become. Today, that woman sometimes feels a little lost in a sea of Whatsapp alerts. If we want to seek quality experiences, a phone call might be the best place to start. After all, it’s easy to text, but it’s good to talk.
Thanks to an explosion of domestic influencers on Instagram, housework – once feminism’s public enemy number one – is experiencing a resurgence.
Marisa Bate explores Mrs Hinch and the dirty underside of cleaning’s new-gen makeover.
‘You have a room like a slattern!’ my mother would yell into the unclean pit of my teenage bedroom when I was growing up. For her, cleanliness was not necessarily next to godliness, but sat firmly alongside pride and self-respect (while filth was akin to sluttishness). Yet, as I became older, cleaning became a rather more complicated subject for me than just teenage laziness. As I grew increasingly interested in feminism, eventually publishing a book on the subject, I realised housework (and the emotional labour to boot) had hung round women’s necks like a rank political albatross; it had been a shackle that worked to keep men in power, and women out of it. Even today, the slovenliness that I haven’t quite left behind (much to my domesticated boyfriend’s annoyance) is imbued with a quiet, grateful nod to my foremothers, who fought so hard for me to be able to worry more about my career than scrubbing the kitchen sink.
This is why I find it mildly alarming that the biggest influencers of 2019 – the very role models girls and young women are looking up to in their millions – aren’t popstars or politicians, but women who clean. Instead of flashing rock-solid abs or sporting Grenson Nanette boots, they are gaining hundreds of thousands of followers for their spotless front rooms and stain-removal hacks; flogging not handbags, but Marigolds and antibacterial spray (Zoflora is, by all accounts, the Tom Ford Black Orchid of the cleaning world).
Sophie Hinchliffe, 29, a hairdresser from Essex, is leading the charge. More commonly known as Mrs Hinch, her Instagram account has 1.9m followers and, this month, she publishes her first book, Hinch Yourself Happy: All The Best Cleaning Tips To Shine Your Sink And Soothe Your Soul. Ever since she started posting Instagram Stories of herself cleaning, nothing short of a frenzy has followed. On 15 April 2018, she had 1,000 followers. By October of that year, she hit the one million mark. ‘I can’t get my head around the growth,’ she says. ‘I keep thinking, where are they all coming from?’
After Morrisons sold 13,000 Minky pads (a cloth favoured by Mrs Hinch) in five days, the supermarket has rationed them to two per customer. ‘Whether we like it or not,’ says Hinchliffe, ‘we all have to do cleaning at some point in our lives. So, without realising, we’ve all got this thing in common. My Instagram has just brought people together.’
Mrs Hinch is not alone. Nicola Lewis, aka This Girl Can Organise (_thisgirlcanorganise), the ‘queen of decluttering’, has 80,500 Instagram followers, and Queen Of Clean (lynsey_queenofclean) has 111,000. Plus, there’s Marie Kondo, who’s been teaching the world to throw things away if they don’t spark joy since her international bestseller was published in English in 2014. Her Netflix show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, released in January, revived attention around her and has been watched by millions. Meanwhile, the message of clean and clutter-free living has been in the popular vernacular for a while – from the popularity of minimalist Scandi living and ‘clean eating’, to the increasing rejection of ‘stuff’ in the name of sustainable living. Arguably, the rise of Mrs Hinch has been a long time coming.
Holly Friend, from the trend forecasting agency The Future Laboratory, suggests that the appeal of Mrs Hinch et al is also linked to the current wellness craze. ‘Self-care has become the defining phrase of our generation,’ she says. ‘Taking care of not just ourselves but our homes is fast becoming the next iteration of that.’ And with Instagram as wellness’s most ardent foot soldier, cleaning is becoming aspirational in its own right. Take Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness mecca, Goop. A quick search on the site throws up a sun-kissed ‘super organic mom’ in her Bel Air home talking about… cleaning. In between pictures of her browsing vinyl and washing kale, she’s promoting a cleaning product. ‘Brands are undergoing a major change in visual identity,’ says Friend. ‘While products are typically designed for a life below the sink, companies are experimenting to encourage customers to display them proudly. In turn, attractive bottles that resemble wellness or beauty trinkets make ideal content for Instagram, perhaps even more so than the spotless interiors.’
‘Instagram is providing a glossy filter for the unpaid labour of women’
For many, there’s also something more fundamental about housework. ‘It helps us find our way through a dirty world,’ a defender of Mrs Hinch wrote in The Guardian earlier this year. ‘While the country is falling apart around us, with Brexit, austerity anguish and climate meltdown, we need to turn to bleaching our toilets.’ Cleaning to block out a disordered world makes sense in times of political turmoil, but it can also create order in our personal worlds, too. Shahroo Izadi, behavioural change specialist and author of The Kindness Method: Changing Habits For Good, points to the mindful qualities of cleaning. In fact, the tools involved are the same as those Izadi uses in her work with people who have substance abuse issues. ‘Cleaning gives you something to focus on, repetition, being able to do things in your own time and the sense of satisfaction of completing a small task,’ she says. ‘But it shouldn’t become a coping strategy to avoid uncomfortable thoughts.’ Izadi is also concerned that the Insta-cleaning culture could become another way to beat ourselves up. ‘In the same way that we might think, “If I’m not controlling my body, I’m not good enough”, we don’t want that to become, “My house isn’t clean enough, so I’m not good enough.”’
Aside from the role housework plays in our emotional well-being, the feminist in me can’t ignore what this might say about women’s progress today. Although Mrs Hinch is making a lucrative career out of her passion, celebrating cleaning feels at odds with the fundamental fight of the feminist movement that still rolls on, directly impacting the gender pay gap. For decades, domestic labour has kept women in the home, and out of the workforce and positions of power – what Betty Friedan famously called ‘the problem that has no name’. By the 70s, Italian Marxist feminist Mariarosa Dalla Costa began the International Wages for Housework campaign that spread globally. This was, in part, a reaction to the 50s, when advertising helped put women firmly back in the kitchen after a brief period of independence during WWII. A smiling red-lipped woman, kitchen appliance in hand, became the face of a booming post-war economy and the return to a woman’s ‘proper’ place. Arguably, Instagram is providing a similar glossy filter for the unpaid labour of women, simultaneously offering a platform for others to profit from traditional feminised spheres, such as fashion and beauty, and once again, housework.
It’s problematic, right? Journalist Suzanne Moore thinks so. She believes the trend ‘is about taking back control of small private spaces at a time when we need to fight for more in the big public ones,’ she says. ‘I’m quite shocked to see younger women going for it. What next? Mangles and washboards? It’s impossible to understand now how much things like washing machines changed women’s lives.’
Feminist activist and former leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker goes one step further, suggesting that the deliberate design to put women back in the domestic sphere is connected to our current political landscape. ‘There’s a nationalist populist move across various countries right now, which has the protection of men’s jobs and the re-establishment of women inside the home at its core,’ she says. Walker points to US President Donald Trump’s efforts to repeal reproductive rights, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán promising women who have
four or more babies that they’ll never pay income tax again, and hardline Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg admitting he’s never changed any of his six children’s nappies.
Scarlett Curtis, author of Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, sees the issue differently. ‘There are many more fights that need to be won against patriarchy before we start complaining that we’re the only ones loading the dishwasher,’ she says. ‘Mrs Hinch and Marie Kondo have turned this shameful, unfeminist chore into an activity – by no means a feminist act in itself – however, it’s a way to celebrate and highlight the fact that women do a fuck of a lot of cleaning, and might as well enjoy it and talk about it.’ Unsurprisingly, Hinchliffe herself rejects the notion that cleaning has anything to do with gender at all. ‘My husband loves to do it. I don’t see it as a male or female thing. My followers are all ages and genders, from all over the world. When we put on our rubber gloves, we’re all the same.’
What is clear, though, is that cleaning is imbued with layers of politics, culture and socialisation. For me, domestic labour will always be far more than arguing over who unloads the dishwasher, but a belief in who should have access to power.
This month, our columnist Angela Scanlon explores the mysterious world of lymphatic drainage to see what all the fuss is about
Ever felt curious as to what exactly lymphatic drainage entails?
Flavia Morellato arrived at my home on a windy Wednesday evening and hugged me before taking off her boots and bounding up the stairs. A little forward you might think, but I enjoy a human who travels light and knows what they want (‘a high bed’ as it happens). I had been told not to eat anything heavy that afternoon, to stay hydrated and be prepared to ‘wear little clothing during the massage’. I usually don’t do massage in a full boiler suit, so this wasn’t alarming. I lit a candle, brought my kid’s Miffy lamp into my bedroom, Flavia cracked on some music and away we went.
I was familiar with ‘manual lymphatic drainage’ and may have even had it at the arse end of a treatment in Thailand a decade ago. I knew, in theory, what it was about. If you don’t, the technique was invented by Dr Emil and Mrs Estrid Vodder in the early 30s. It’s a form of massage that stimulates the lymphatic drainage system (the network of vessels through which lymph fluid drains from the tissues into the blood) with gentle-ish massaging strokes.
Flavia started with my tummy. I love every type of massage, but having someone press firmly on that area is oddly terrifying. It’s the bit of you that houses all your major organs – there’s a cage to protect it and it’s usually hidden behind folded arms. Like getting a bikini wax, I figured tension and anticipation would only make it worse, so I forced myself to take deep breaths and relax into it. Once I did, things started to… gurgle. I can’t quite explain the sound (or the sensation), and that may not be a bad thing.
Flavia is almost evangelical about her work and spoke to my body as she massaged (which should be weird but somehow wasn’t). ‘Thank you, very good. That’s it,’ she said to the water, as she moved and manipulated everything that was trapped in my system – she said a few recent flights had made me pretty bloated. We cheered as she steered the water towards the lymph node. Apparently, there was air there, too, and I should just ‘let it out’. Although I was grateful for the gesture and was in the comfort of my own bed, I was not quite there yet.
The light, rhythmical massage encourages the lymphatic system to eliminate metabolic waste products, excess fluid and bacteria. It also speeds up metabolism, circulation, digestion, detoxification, facilitates healing and supports the immune system. Basically, all the benefits of colonic irrigation, but less invasive and without the obliteration of good gut bacteria.
I can’t really tell what benefits of lymphatic drainage, if any, I’ve gained internally, but my tummy did definitely feel flatter, I slept like a baby and I’m, ahem, gassed about having another one sometime soon.
Vick Hope says hosting a new show about identity forced her to consider what it means to be mixed race and British in the midst of Brexit
Words by Vick Hope
When my mum arrived in Newcastle from Nigeria at the age of 11, the residents of Eversley Place began a petition to ‘Get The Darkies Out’. It was 1971, and I’d like to think a lot has changed since then.
Certainly, growing up, it was rare that I felt unwelcome like my mum did. But rather what I have endlessly grappled with is the sense that no matter what I do or where I go, I have never felt that I belong. Born from what was -at the time – a pretty controversial collision of cultures (the night before their wedding, my parents were sat down and urged to decide whether they’d bring their future kids up Nigerian or English, because God forbid we could possibly be both), I’ve been called posh by my fellow Geordies, then deemed common at the University of Cambridge. I’ve felt too stupid and inadequate amongst my ultra-intelligent course-mates, yet too geeky and opinionated for commercial radio. I’m perpetually straddling, and not in the sexy way.
Working out who we are, who we are supposed to be, who we want to be is normal, even …hell, especially… when it feels anything but normal. When you’re a kid, fitting in is everything. I was the only mixed race pupil at my school and all I wanted was to look like everyone else. I remember begging my mum to ‘wash the muddy brown off me’ when she bathed me. I counted down the days until I turned 16 when I’d be allowed to straighten my ‘crazy, frizzy hair’, as the other girls had called it. I wanted to be white and blonde so I could be an angel in the school Nativity play. Because only the blonde girls were allowed to be the angels and angels are lovely and I just wanted to be lovely too.
But I was also jealous of my Nigerian cousins and their friends, whose seemingly profound connection to their heritage -and skin dark enough to prove it- meant they never had to fruitlessly scramble for an answer to the question, ‘do you feel more black or more white?’: a question so utterly ridiculous and resolutely unanswerable. And yet one that nonetheless left me feeling devoid of a definable culture to which I could feel I comfortably belonged. And that’s without ever having to deal with a ‘Get The Darkies Out’ petition.
Two years after my mum arrived, in 1973, Britain joined the European Union. Now on the cusp of leaving, questions about belonging are more pertinent than ever, for all of us. What will Britishness look like, feel like; who are we in the wake of Brexit? These are the questions we ask in Art50 i, a project I was so passionate about getting involved with because I ask these questions every damn day. Art50 is a Sky Arts TV series and festival centred on British identity since the triggering of Article 50, explored via 50 pieces of art, showcasing everyone from painters to composers, orchestras, dance companies, poets and playwrights.
I was lucky enough to sit on the commissioning panel and present the show alongside Stephen Mangan and Joan Bakewell, hosting panels of many of the artists involved about what British identity means to them and the thousands of Brits from all walks of life who they interviewed to research their projects. Brexiteers and Remainers alike, the multiplicity and diversity of their answers was staggering: layers and layers of heritage, experience and perspective, all of which are constantly shifting and evolving as we scrabble in the dark to make our way through these uncertain times. It turns out that everything that makes us so different is actually what makes us the same, as we seek solace in community, family, shared memories and love.
It is a sentiment echoed, albeit via a VERY different medium, in the recent series of Shipwrecked which I narrated, in which beautiful, half-naked 20-somethings (at the very peak of their working-out-who-the-hell-I-am journey) choose which of two desert islands to reside on based on the other inhabitants. ‘Your vibe attracts your tribe’ was the overriding message, and indeed it is the people around us who shape who we become, not some arbitrarily assigned labels: ‘Too common for Cambridge’ and ‘Too brown to be an angel’ are NOT identities. And to every little girl out there working out who she’s supposed to be, worried that she’s too much or she’s not enough: don’t let anyone tell you that you are either.
Something which resonated throughout Art50 for all was a rejection of stereotypes, shallow definitions and being squished into boxes by others. And so it seems identity is dynamic, it is multi-faceted, and where the Art50 project presents many versions of Britishness in glorious technicolour, so too are our personal identities multi-layered and constantly in flux. Who says we are the same person from one day to the next? Who says I can’t inhabit two seemingly opposite spaces at once? Yes we are our roots, but we are also the routes we take through life. We are where we come from but also where we are going. And Lord knows where that is. Perhaps this means at once we belong nowhere and everywhere; maybe I will never belong, maybe I always have, and maybe that’s fine.
Art50 appears on Sky Arts every night between Monday 25th and Thursday 28th March at 9pm
The blatant violation, involving filming up someone’s clothing without their permission, will now be punishable by up to two years in prison. But my God, has it taken a long time.
The criminalisation of the offence is a done deal – having finally been approved in the House of Lords and now just awaiting the formality of Royal Assent. The issue is that the campaign was started in 2017.
My question – why has it taken so long to be made illegal?
Surely something as intrusive as filming up someone’s clothing in a public space without their permission deserves to be made a crime, right? Not to some it seems, and if it wasn’t for the determination of Gina Martin, it would have fallen at the first hurdle.
Gina introduced us to the term, Upskirting, after starting a viral online campaign to get it criminalised. She had discovered that it wasn’t a specific offence in UK law after being victim to it herself at a festival and being unable to progress her claims, with police telling her there was nothing they could do. She later petitioned to reopen her claim, and then went ever further, lobbying to change the law.
Gina’s aim? To have upskirting recognised in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and to thereby make it punishable by law.
Gina Martin. Credit: REX
But while it garnered a lot of celebrity support and was brought to parliament by Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse, its progress was halted by Conservative MP Christopher Chope in June 2018 who did his very best to disrupt the policy’s development – the proposal’s sole objector.
This week however the House of Lords chose to back the bill, and when the criminalisation was confirmed, Gina exclaimed that she was ‘over the moon’.
‘After becoming a victim and recognising a gap in the law, I partnered with Ryan Whelan of Gibson Dunn and began 18 months of exhaustive, emotional and life-changing work,’ she announced. ‘Now? We have changed the law! I always thought politics was impenetrable but with the right help and willpower you can do it. We did it. We made upskirting a sexual offence! I am exhausted and so so happy!’
So now England and Wales are joining the many countries that already have laws on upskirting, with serious offenders even to be named on the sex offenders register.
This is huge progress, but I’m still angry.
Upskirting being made illegal is obviously an incredible thing. I just think it’s a shame that it has taken so long to criminalise something that is so obviously not OK.
Scotland has had laws against upskirting for almost a decade, so why were we behind the curb?
Let’s make sure the next unspecified offence doesn’t take as long to criminalise. We need to do better, and if we we see something that isn’t right, we need to be a Gina Martin and make change.
Men’s grooming brand Gillette released a video today, in minutes becoming the most divisive razor advert of all time.
Tuning in on my commute this morning, I braced myself for the usual visuals – slow motion shots of stubble followed by sexualised size 0 women dancing around clean-shaven male customers. To their credit, Gillette proved me wrong.
The short video didn’t even mention razors, or grooming for that matter. Instead, it focused its attention on toxic masculinity, asking men to do and be better, and changing its famous slogan from ‘the best a man can get’ to ‘the best men can be’.
Yes, this is not a drill. The world’s leading men’s grooming brand has gone woke and is trying to redefine what it means to be a man, dispelling outdated stereotypes and prompting us all to have important conversations on harassment and bullying – conversations that we should have had a long time ago.
‘Is this the best a man can get?,’ the advert begins, a play on their own outdated advertising. ‘Is it?
‘We can’t hide from it, it’s been going on far too long. We can’t laugh it off, making the same old excuses,’ a voiceover reads alongside news footage of the #MeToo movement and scenes of harassment. ‘But something finally changed and there will be no going back.
‘Because we believe in the best in men to say the right thing, to act the right way. Some already are, in ways big and small. But some is not enough, because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.’
I sat back from this advert in awe, before hitting replay. A male-based brand calling on its customers to challenge societal pressures, and most importantly, challenge other men on everyday behaviours of toxic masculinity. Thank the lord.
Then I saw the responses. ‘Man hating’, ‘radicalised feminism‘ and ‘repulsive’ were just some of the terms used, with Piers Morgan even accusing Gillette of encouraging men to ‘cut off their testicles with their razors’.
Well if we wanted an example of toxic masculinity, there it is – bullying people and subordinating women, suggesting that by standing up for them you are castrating yourself.
It is not acceptable to defend toxic behaviour with this ’Boys will be boys’ mentality. Being a man shouldn’t mean abusing your power and men should be stepping up and standing up to everyone from their colleagues and family members to strangers on the street when behaviour is unacceptable.
It is of course unsurprising that there has been backlash. Progress is rarely made without people fighting against it, and a lot of viewers have sworn off Gillette razors ‘for life’ for their supposed ‘man-hating message.’
To these people I say, you’re not listening to what the advert is telling you.
This advert is not hating on men. It is hating on the deeply engrained societal pressures of what it is to be a man. This advert is rooting for men. It is saying that as a society we need to change and it is challenging men to change their behaviours and challenge those around them.
If we want to achieve gender equality, this is how. We have to challenge everyday behaviours in order to overturn the whole system.
Toxic masculinity is a thing. That’s a fact. I know this because I experience it every day, as does every woman around me. So to the people arguing that toxic masculinity is nothing but a millennial buzz word invented by radical feminists, you have already lost your credibility.
Of course the Piers Morgans of the world have taken offence. It is because of toxic masculinity that those same people came to power in the first place.
Watch the video again. Look for the message.
We need to stop using our gender to excuse behaviours. We need to stop the abuse of power. If you see harassment, challenge it. But most importantly we all need to work together to make this change.
It’s funny (and by that I don’t mean the laugh-out-loud kind), isn’t it? That your own body is never really your own. When you’re getting married, you’re asked if you’re going to get into shape for the big day – no one ever asks the husband that one, mind – and virtually as soon as you walk down the aisle, you’re asked when you’re going to start a family.
And let me tell you, it gets even worse the moment you tell people you’re TTC – that’s trying to conceive by the way, your vocabulary opens to a whole new world of abbreviations when you’re TTC with your OH.
To be fair, it was my own fault for telling anyone, but in my defence, I believed it would get people off my back a little if I told them we were at least trying. Except, it only worked for a few months before the advice (mostly unsolicited) started pouring in again.
The thing that surprised me the most is how opinionated everyone is, and although it is never meant in a mean way, it’s f*****g grating is what it is. To give you a few examples…
‘Well you should probably put on a bit of weight’ – you would never tell someone to put on/lose weight in normal circumstances, would you? Also the only person who I trust to tell me about my weight here is my doctor, and she says it’s fine
‘No wonder it’s not happening, you’re hardly ever in the same country’ – myself and my husband do travel a lot for work, but trust me, we know how to make a baby, thanks captain obvious
‘You should stress less, because you know stress doesn’t help’ – you know what’s definitely not stressful? Someone asking for updates all the time. Or telling you not to stress.
‘So, is has anything happened? *wink wink*’ – Yeah we’re just keeping it secret for the lolz
‘Honestly, having a baby is so much more work than you think, I’m not trying to put you off, but…’ – you’re right, i’ve changed my mind, let’s cancel the baby making
‘Well your mum took a while to conceive, so you might have the same issues’ – again helpful
‘Oh, well I wouldn’t worry about it, some people takes aaaages to get pregnant, you’ve got lots of time’ – nope, not worried about it, thanks though
‘Well you’d better hurry, I don’t want to die before I’ve met my first great-grandchild’ – no pressure. At all.
The thing is, whether we are worried about it or not, it’s just not ok to comment on such personal matters, because you never know what people are going through. In the meantime, the next time someone offers up some words of wisdom, I’ll ask them exactly which sex position they think is best.
An open letter by Lindsey Holland on how to combat the ‘heads down’ anxiety problem and care for the elderly at Christmas (and all year round)…
Words by Lindsey Holland
As we grow closer to Christmas, it’s important to think more about ways that we can support those who won’t have anyone to celebrate with, those who long for some company and those who will feel very much alone around this time of year in particular. I’m talking about our amazing elderly population.
My grandparents have always played a major role in my life, and still do. They taught me a hell of a lot. My nana’s soft attitude towards my stress levels surrounding friendships, or later on, boys, were exactly what I needed. She used to say “never mind little rose” and then stick the kettle on and shower me with fancy biscuits. I wear a ring engraved with that exact message. Sid, that’s granddad, was a tall man with the kindest, most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen, taught me about how to listen well. He asked lots of questions, and I loved that about him. I’d go as far as to say he was my best pal.
I worked as a physiotherapist in NHS hospitals across the country for years. There are many areas across a physiotherapy career, but I settled in an area I excelled in, and felt completed me a bit, and that was elderly care. What a rollercoaster working with the elderly is! I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Or maybe except the time that Doris drop kicked me in the chest for making her a brew- dementia is really tough. Or the time that Horace’s catheter exploded on my leg and I had to wear surgical scrubs for the rest of the day.
My love for the elderly, and for the NHS and the incredible teams I was a part of over the years aside, it got to be a lot. I was at breaking point. The lack of staff, the overload of patients in the winter months, the bed crisis. I was not fully willing to give up my job or my blog, which ran alongside my physio career as a hobby. As my role as a physiotherapist became more stress and less love, my blog became more demanding, and began to open up doors I never imagined. I was pushed to make a decision in favour of my mental and physical health, and in June 2017 I left my role as a physiotherapist.
As you can imagine, leaving my role in caring for the elderly left a gaping hole in my life and it wasn’t long before I started to search for something to fill said hole. I had a work meeting with a really inspiring woman, and it transpired that she was volunteering via Age UK as part of their befriending scheme and I left the meeting and got in touch with Age UK the very same afternoon. The befriending scheme is built to try and put a stop to loneliness amongst the elderly population by pairing volunteers (you!) up with a lonely elderly person in your area. GPs, social workers and families can refer the elderly person into the scheme. All that’s required of you, is a one hour training course to make you feel comfortable within your new role, and a visit to your new pal at least once per week for a couple of hours. They actually also offer telephone befriending services- so you can pick up the phone and catch up that way if the person would prefer it. It’s really quite an amazing service.
I recently began a new online series on my blog called ‘Ageless Ties’. I want to identify why, as a generation we have moved so far away from the crux of what makes us happy, and the things that makes us feel connected to one another. We’re living in a ‘head down’ generation filled with technology designed to help us to operate at our best, except that all it does is ensue anxiety and disconnection. Working in elderly care taught me about how beautiful and important a connection between generations really is. Not just for them, but for us, too. The way they see the world, our problems Vs. their problems and how they manage situations. It’s all about perspective, and they’ve got a tonne of it.
From the community I’ve built around the Ageless Ties platform, I’ve learnt that we have so much to offer each other and that a friend from an older generation and the perspective that they bring to you will be one of the most refreshing things you’ll ever experience. Through sitting with and interviewing countless women and men who have formed the most incredible relationships beyond any conventional ideas of age and background, I’ve been lucky enough to gain an insight into the deep and undying importance of bridging the gaps between ‘age ranges’.
I’m four months into my Age UK befriending scheme friendship with my elderly pal (click here to read more about the end loneliness scheme), and honestly, she’s a diamond. She has had the most incredible life, gives wonderful advice and is a joy to be around. We laugh a lot together and I leave feeling full and inspired, and I would like to think that the way she natters on to me, makes her feel similar.
More information about the ways you can get involved in helping to end loneliness can be found in the links above.
Here’s why Junior News Editor Jenny Proudfoot thinks it’s a good thing…
Today it was announced that Twitter was getting ready to remove its ‘like’ button – one of only three ways people can respond to posts (like, retweet and reply).
Why? To get the platform’s priorities straight, with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announcing that his plans were to improve debate on Twitter.
‘As we’ve been saying for a while, we are rethinking everything about the service to ensure we are incentivising healthy conversation, that includes the like button,’ the Twitter communications team confirmed. ‘We are in the early stages of the work and have no plans to share right now.’
Unsurprisingly, the announcement has been divisive, with a lot of Twitter users arguing that the removal is unnecessary, and even more suggesting that the platform’s time could have been better spent.
Why remove the ‘like’ button when you could spend that time removing hate speech and the abusive accounts out there?
While the statement rings true, I am actually behind Twitter’s removal of the ‘like’ button. In fact, in my opinion – the sooner the better.
Why? Because social media has become a popularity contest and we all need to stop looking for validation.
I am a London-based millennial journalist with a growing social media presence – in other words, all I think about is likes.
Every tweet, every Instagram post, every Insta story involves a long thought process – What time will be the most popular for posting? Which filter will people prefer? And what opinion should I raise to get me all the likes?
Our society is built on validation, and while social media used to be a place to inform and discuss, it has since become a ‘like for like’ marketplace to make us all feel powerful.
But power is knowledge, and if a lot of us are honest, we’ve lost ourselves, what we think, and what we believe, changing and shaping our opinions to get the most likes and be the most influential online.
So yes, removing the ‘like’ button might be problematic for some budding influencers hoping to make their money on avocado toast photographs, but it will mean that the people who are posting are not just posting for likes, and are tweeting with an actual purpose.
We can still post whatever we want to, it will just be for us rather than for the likes.
There’s no word yet as to when the change will be made, but if it starts better debates and improves the quality of what we’re talking about, I say ‘bring it on’.
Let us know your thoughts on Twitter at @MarieclaireUK
In her new book You Have The Right To Remain Fat, author and activist Virgie Tovar tackles the ‘minority stress’ caused by fat discrimination and the damaging effects of dieting
Here’s a fact: despite all the promises of the diet industry, paradoxically, dieting leads to weight gain over time. Let me say that again: over time, dieting leads to weight gain. I say there’s nothing wrong with weight gain, but the culture says differently. So, if the stated goal of thinness is not actually being achieved, then what are we really doing when we are dieting?
Dieting doesn’t do the thing it’s allegedly designed to do, but dieting does lead to a number of other results: low self-esteem and decreased self-advocacy during sexual negotiation (there is some evidence that suggests that fat women negotiate for condoms less frequently than their thin counterparts1).
Fat people experience more anxiety in our daily lives. We experience the effects of something called “minority stress”—the negative physiological outcomes of discrimination, cruelty, and social ostracization over a lifetime.
That stress can result in suppressed immunity, shortened life span, and decreased heart health—not coincidentally, some of the very things often attributed to high body weight in the medical industry. Further, if we all miraculously became our doctor-recommended BMI overnight, we would awake the following day to find that the goal post had been moved because control is the ultimate purpose of diet culture and fatphobia.
What is the alternative? To stop. Stop being terrified of fatness. Stop marginalizing fat people. To recognize that no body is superior or inferior to another. My core belief is both painfully obvious and wholly subversive: every person, regardless of weight or health status, deserves to live a life completely free from bigotry and discrimination.
That might sound really simple, but imagine for one second what this really means: big or small you are, whether you were able to run a mile in eight minutes or you hadn’t run a day in your life. No caveats, no fine print— just you and your life, without any barriers you perceive to be in your way due to weight or body shape.
This means you wouldn’t feel the need to change your body size in order to be taken seriously as a romantic partner. You wouldn’t internalize your body’s limits as a personal failure because you would have no framework for your body as a source of failure.
This means that you would not be socially punished if you gained forty pounds and you would not be socially rewarded if you lost forty pounds. (I believe there would likely be significantly less weight fluctuation without diet culture and fatphobia.)
This means that when you went to the doctor you wouldn’t be treated differently or be refused proper treatment if you were fat.
This means that food would be stripped of moral meaning, which would make eating less terrifying. You wouldn’t feel morally inferior if you ate tacos rather than a salad since food shame wouldn’t be a thing.
This means that when you had important moments in your life you wouldn’t be expected to lose a bunch of weight. So you could focus on the joy of those important moments rather than being distracted by anxiety.
Extracted from You Have The Right To Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar, published by Melville Books