Sunday, 21 February 2016

What is love?

Any fellow singles out there will be all too familiar with the questions posed by well-meaning sympathisers: 'Awww, you'll find love soon' or, 'You just haven't met the right person yet'. It's assumed that you actually want to find someone and/or you haven't looked hard enough and/or you're an 'undesirable' it's as easy as bidding on a jumper on eBay.

My experience with men is much like my experience with buying shoes. I find some I really like, I envisage a lifetime of outfits to combo with said shoes, only to be thoroughly disappointed that they don't do them in my size.

What is it that makes people nutty about love? Fairy-tales tell us they'll die for it, kill for it, commit adultery for it and lose their dignity over it. BeyoncĂ© was crazy in it and the Black Eyed Peas asked where it was. It's one of our main purposes in life and when we've 'lost' it we get ourselves in a right pickle desperately trying to claw it back like a priceless irreplaceable artefact.

For me, lost love is like having to claim on your insurance for a replacement laptop. It's a pain to have to go through all the paperwork, but you know there are new laptops which are shinier, faster and can run on Windows 10. It's the mentality that's bred into us from a young age which plays a big part in how we feel we should live. By mid-thirties if we don't have a partner, a child, a little doggy and a fish called Bubbles we're massive failures and we should, quite frankly, give up.

Three floating hearts
I can tell you what love isn't. Love isn't forced, suppressed or guilty. It is not governed by class, or race or gender or height. In its simplest form love is a strong connection, a willingness to be near someone, to make them laugh, to make them happy and a hope they feel the same in return.

So what does that mean for the single parent? It means we've had to look at the rules of a lot of 'conventional' process like love and redefine them. I've learnt that love comes in a multitude of forms and from a number of different directions. And that is OK.

If you think about it, even without a partner you already have that kind of connection. Love for a family member, love for a friend, love for that delectable 22 teaspoons-of-sugar's worth of caramel hot chocolate from your favourite coffee shop. Love is that knowing corner-of-the-mouth smile, that glance, the feeling you know what each other are thinking, that you can finish their jokes and the cavernous space where your stomach used to be when they're gone.

Perhaps it is not the need for love itself, but the need to always want something more. The continual search, climb and achieve mentality in humans that drives us to live rather than just exist manifests itself as an addiction? Love is one of the most intense feelings of satisfaction and thus the strongest addiction.

Just. One. More. Hit.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Unashamed Under Six

My son has a superb knack of delivering cringe-worthy one-liners in public. The kind where I'd dare not make eye contact with another adult for fear of judgement, or maybe because I can feel them smiling. Which would make me smile (or worse, laugh). Which would make my job of explaining his public faux pas to him even more difficult.

We were in the car he spotted a random black man walking his dog and exclaimed, "That must be Granddad!" Of course, this is my fault for not submitting him to enough cultural diversity. Thus followed an explanation of skin colour and the fact that there is more than one black man on the planet.

Messy boy covered in Vaseline
Vaseline. Everywhere.
Tonight he casually told me, "Mum, I've put toothpaste on my willy." Firstly, I thought, 'thank you for the information'. Secondly,  I was counting the seconds, waiting for the 'Aaargh it stings! Get it off! Get it off!" But, nothing....Luckily, toothpaste for children doesn't pack much of a punch when it comes to minty freshness. I calmly removed the tube from reach. I don't want another Vaseline incident. That was rubbed liberally all over his body, my floor, the doors, my walls, his bedsheets....and then he had the audacity to complain that he was 'too greasy to sleep'. One of his best bedtime excuses to date.

Now, the public declarations regarding the state of his privates or toilet functions? They're the most challenging. I took him to Legoland at the weekend. There was a particular ride he said he wanted to go on because it made his 'peanuts feel funny'. He sat in between a dad and a little girl. The dad must've cursed about his nether region, because my son was there, springing up and down, yelling at the top of his lungs "GONADS!!!" repeatedly. I was watching with my sister and a couple of parents who were giving me sideways glances. However, when I did get the chance to ask him what he had been yelling he innocently responded with, "Doughnuts". I'm not sure if that's much of an improvement.

In a pub recently was his finest moment (and my worst). He asked me how to spell 'or'. Little did I know that this was part of a longer word in relation to the drawing he had just finished:
"Here we go Mum! I've drawn a 'cock-or-too'!! And I've written 'cockortoo' here, see? Look, 'cock-or-too'."

Children will embarrass us. It's in their very nature, and I cannot wait to return the favour when he's a teenager. I now understand the devilish grin my mum would give me when she knew she was doing something that would embarrass me.

Tomorrow is his last day of his first year at school. I'm really pleased with his school report; he has exceeded expectations in over a third of the areas monitored. So although he may humiliate me at an opportune moment, I'm also incredibly proud of his development since the start of the school year. It's great to see the enthusiasm with which he'll express a new topic he has learnt that day.

Of course, the patience, attentiveness and guidance of the teachers and his one-to-one support assistants has been unparalleled. He's grown so much in the last few months and I can't wait for the growth (and embarrassments) waiting for me for the next year.

I would never want him to be reserved about speaking his mind, and I often believe he has a deeper insight on subjects than most adults. I only hope the time will come when I won't have to get into a deep discussion about the gender roles in reproduction when he blurts out, "I love Nick Fury, he's my baby-mumma".

Thursday, 16 July 2015

An open Letter to Discriminatory Recruiters and Employers

Dear Recruiter,

I am quite annoyed by your question regarding my son and I find it incredibly insulting. Your comment was demeaning to my professional expertise and belittles my incredible work ethic and experience, which has absolutely nothing to do with my ability to birth a child.

You have absolutely no right to ask about my family and 'how I will handle it'. I have been working full-time for years with a child, and guess what? I am a single mother too! It's illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sex. I am sure you wouldn't have asked a man with a child: "Is 'it' going to cause problems?"

I would formally like to withdraw my application from this role, and certainly do not wish to work for a company if this is their attitude.

I would also like to be removed from your database.

I suggest you consider a little more professionalism when speaking to hard working, intelligent, forward thinking candidates, and remember that this is the 21st century.

Please do not contact me again.


Modern Single Mum

Friday, 5 June 2015

Are you a bunny boiler or a cheater?

My brain is in constant conflict with itself.

On the one hand I tell myself that I barely have the energy to flirt with guys because, lets face it, creating sexual tension without the guarantee of progressing is both exhausting and frustrating. On the other hand, I think it would be marginally nice to have someone to hug and to make fun of me a little.

There are immediate assumptions that are made when people hear that you are a single mother. It's a daily struggle trying to fight stereotypes. One of the reasons I've avoided dating sites over the last few months is due to a strong societal belief that as a single mother I must be absolutely desperate for sex. So I could lie on my dating profile and not mention the small dependant, but what does that say about my character to the serious guys who are looking for an actual relationship? The kind of attention I received from guys were a couple of sentences lacking substance, swiftly followed by an unsolicited photo of their abs or 'peanuts' (as my son calls it).

It's often assumed that I must have done something awful to be a single mum, and that I put myself in this position. I'm made to feel guilty or inadequate or 'damaged goods'. I refuse to be put into this stereotypical box. Yes I did, 'put myself in this position', thank you. But do you know about that decision or why I made it? No? So pipe down.

As one dating website 'hopeful' (Mr Disrespectful) so eloquently put it:

"Are you a bunny boiler, or a cheater? Because you can't look like that and be single, there must be a catch. Experience has taught me that women are always boiling on the edge of a personality disorder."

Mr Disrespectful was quickly blocked. This was the very first message from him. Some chat-up line! There are very few that break down my wall and get to really know the real and quirky side of me. How can a guy who knows nothing about the situation or relationship with my son's dad profess to know why I'm single? How does he dare think he has the right? It seems he must have been hurt badly and took his revenge by bitterly bashing any woman that would listen. Me? I'd rather have some friendly, flirty, no-pressure banter. Sad for him.

Why when someone asks if I'm single do they assume there's something wrong with me? There's nothing wrong with me. I've not met a man who meets my expectations, and to be honest, I don't feel a desperate need to. If someone awesome appears then great, but I don't feel like I'm missing my 'better half'. I am a whole complete person in my own right. And no, I'm not lonely at night because there are these handy things that some people have called 'friends', and they are very valuable to me.

I have a great full-time job, an energetic and challenging five year-old boy with additional needs and I'm studying for a degree. If you can find me a guy who is secure in themselves, willing to squeeze into that and can take each day as it comes without batting an eyelid, then that one right there will be the one who is truly worthy of my time.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Mixed Signals from Peanut Butter Guy

As a fresh-faced 18 year-old I had the opportunity to go to Peru for the summer holidays with my college friends and an organisation which coordinates these types of trips. I spent any spare time I had raising the funds to go, but at about half way to my target I pulled out of the experience. It would have involved walking the Inca trail, white-water rafting as well as helping to decorate a school. I have always regretted my decision not to go, and sadly I put it down to bad judgement and a boy I was seeing at the time - a relationship which incidentally ended very badly. Ever since that day, I have always told myself never to let a boy get in the way of my dreams and aspirations. Yet, today, through the midst of trying to study I am procrastinating over a guy I've only been on one date with! Grrrr....girls and their over-thinking brains. Why couldn't I have been born a boy?

Peanut Butter Guy is the epitome of mixed signals. I wonder if, because now I am more open to something a bit serious, I've fabricated all these amazing times we'll have together in my head and my brain is starting to believe it's true. So now that I haven't heard from him for five days (apart from a couple of 'favourited' pictures on Instagram) I am literally climbing up the walls. FIVE DAYS I tell you. I'm a pretty laid back kind of person and I honestly thought I would be happy to take things in my stride, but one minute he calls me 'beautiful' and wants to know the inner workings of my brain and then the next minute he barely speaks to me. Don't even get me started on the fact we've not even been on date number two yet! It's true, I'm not in a rush. I'm busy with a degree assignment, a new job starting on the 6th May - which I'm very excited about - and my son is having a few behavioural issues at nursery again (I've signed him up for a martial arts class to help channel his anger), but not hearing from a guy for FIVE DAYS?? I think it's safe to say he's just not that into me.

I'm trying to make peace with the fact that I'll likely be single over the summer. I've got a couple of weddings to go to (solo) and a few trips here and there, so who knows what'll come of it? Being single I am absolutely OK with for now. What I don't agree with is the polar opposite signals some guys can give. I've made it clear that I'm interested. I'm too grown-up to mess about with silly games. If you like me, tell me. If not, jog on. I've got studying to do.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

My simple 6 interview tips

It's been a crazy few weeks of relentless interviewing following the threat of (and then actual) redundancy. I'm exhausted and not sure if I have the energy to answer the question, 'What are you doing in your current role?' for the umpteenth time. Nevertheless, interviewing is a fact of life. Even having conducted hundreds of interviews myself as an ex-Recruiter, I still feel that entering an unknown building and trying to impress an unknown person is just as daunting to me now as it was at the beginning of my working life.

I am up to the final rounds of interviews so I thought I'd take the opportunity to impart some of what I have learnt about myself and the interview techniques that work for me, in the hope they might help another. It's important to show enthusiasm over desperation. Being a person with a dependent your head says, 'PANIC!' but this must not show on your face.

There are plenty of formal structured ideas of how an interview should be conducted, but I would like to give a friendlier list of Top 6 Tips for getting the job you want:

1) Be the best version of yourself - This sounds fairly obvious, but it's surprising how tempting it is as an interviewee to fall into a trap of thinking, 'What do they want me to be?' Of course you want to show you are suitable, but you must be true to you. If you project a false image you will be discovered in the end, and that will be counter-productive for both parties.

2) Know your CV and tell the truth - There is a fine line here. In the dating world, it's not advisable to try to impress someone by saying you can relate to their interest as an annual competitor in Iron Man, if in all honesty, you're referring to regularly running for the No. 9 bus. This false projection will not doing you any favours in the end. However, there is nothing wrong with amending your CV to align to the job spec and highlight related strengths in specific areas.  If you have experience in something and it's relevant make sure it's on your CV. You must know the dates, companies, job titles, length of time and reasons for leaving each role. Make sure not to give a negative answer like, 'My manager was a bitch.'

3) Arrive 10 minutes early - I was two minutes late for an interview, and because of the rush and the flustering I was worried I'd blown it instead of focussing on my performance. This is not the best first impression you want to give at interview.

4) Get an early night the day before and DO NOT DRINK! - I once turned up to an interview severely hungover, with my collar inside out and no make-up. My hair looked like I'd been caught in the middle of a fight between a fox and a badger. I sat in the interview with waves of nausea rushing over me. I had to ask him to repeat a question because my mind had focussed on more important things, such as whether I was going to keep that Prosecco down, and whether there was a bin in the room within grabbing distance.

5) Interview the interviewer - I find this works wonders. It's recommended that you take a list of questions with you. I say make sure you memorise these questions. There's no need to wait until the end to ask them, if it's an appropriate moment, ask! This isn't prison. You need to make sure you're happy with them as a company and as potential colleagues. It's your life! I had an interviewer ask ME if I had any reservations about him. That's your aim.

6) Smile, make eye contact and show them you want it - This is by far the most important thing you can do. Any hard-faced, bull dog of a VP or Director or CEO will crack a smile in response because it is the human condition to do so. Ultimately, it's people that build businesses. They want to see you have a personality and you are confident in your abilities. My thoughts: "Yes, this is scary as hell, and I am severely intimidated, but I'm going to be happy, enthusiastic and positive about the whole situation, because I may need a sense of humour if I am to be spending the next few years of my life answering to you!" Make sure you drop the interviewer a succinct thank you email afterwards. Mention one key point from the interview such as, 'Your obvious enthusiasm for the company must be a great motivator for your staff'.

So there you have it. Just remember that you might not want the job anyway. If it's the right company for you then there'll be chemistry from both sides. Intuition is a very important aspect of this process. Just think, you're basing a life-changing decision on an hour in a chair. Dig deep, smile wide and make them want you on their team.

Good luck job-seekers! Here's to the next great opportunity.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Dating a tall girl

So here I am, online dating again. I'm feeling positive about the whole experience as I now know what I want and I am happy enough in myself to go and get it.

Being a tall woman of 6'1" there have always been perceptions both from others and myself of the acceptable height of a date. Sadly, society believes that the man in a relationship should be taller. This is something that has been bred into us, and a belief I am guilty of myself. I won't go into explicit detail (in case my mother reads this), but of the men I have *ehem* been with, only one has been taller than me.

I have had a strict rule about dating guys taller than me. My brain has been conditioned to discount the shorter men and only find taller men attractive. However, something deep within me has bent this rule on more than one occasion. Despite feeling that perhaps I am doing something wrong I will still fall for shorter guys. As a teen and young adult I was made to feel that shorter guys would be threatened by my height. To be honest, I probably had more of a connection on a personal level with short guys who were just one-nighters! Perhaps there were missed opportunities, but the choices I made have given me the outlook I have today.

I have researched average couple heights and apparently only 4% of women are taller than their men! However, it appears that there are quite a few celebrities who confidently shrug off the 'taboo' of a taller woman and crack on anyway: Tom and Nicole, Tom and Katie, Mick and L'Wren, Ethan and Uma. If it's good enough for them, why not me?

I found out last night that 'Peanut Butter Guy' (the man I've been chatting to online) is 5'11". We get on amazingly, we have a lot in common, he's very intelligent, good looking, lovely arms (they are), he loves animals, he is an incredible photographer, and yet two little inches made me stop and reconsider my efforts of getting to know him! It is such a shame that such a superficial thing would get in the way, and I am angry at myself for wanting to conform to societal beliefs that could result in a forcefield to my happiness. I am angry at myself, because when I jokingly (worryingly) asked him if he ever wore heels, rather than the response I was expecting: 'Shall we just call it a day?' instead, he sent me a photo of himself when he was younger in drag and said 'Funny you should ask....' He doesn't care how tall I am, so what am I worried about?

I think what us tall girls want is to not have to be the joker and 'one of the guys' just because you're the same height (or taller). We want to feel feminine just as much as the next girl and we need guys to not feel threatened or emasculated, and for them to feel secure enough in themselves to embrace our height. Upon meeting guys in a bar (for example) we regularly get the line, 'You're tall', to which my response is usually 'Too tall for you' or 'You're short/fat/bald/(insert other offensive comment). This puts an end to the conversation immediately. Wouldn't it be great if someone were not to mention the obvious at all? Maybe think outside the box (or stand on it) and say, 'Hey, you seem like a nice person. Can I buy you a drink?' Because, lets be honest, you wouldn't approach a girl you were seriously attracted to and expect a positive response from an opening line like, 'Your boobs are massive.' The only thing you would expect from a comment like that, is a slap.

dating a tall girl
Leggy in the middle