How I’m dealing with getting older

Getting older - field of flowers with mountain background

Getting older. It’s a privilege not afforded to everyone so I try really hard not to be ungrateful about it. The alternative is an early death which, unsurprisingly, I’m even less keen on. So getting older it is.

I don’t have a problem with the getting older per se. I don’t miss going out clubbing, or wearing teeny tiny clothes, or functioning on 3 hours sleep. I’m happy pottering at home in my garden and that’s fab. Going to bed after 11 is a late night. I wear comfy cotton pants instead of undercarriage flossing thongs. With age has come a calmness and happiness I didn’t have in my 20s. Passing years have enabled me to do so many things that only come with time and experience, including travelling to many different countries and cities across the world. My earnings cover the lifestyle I have and want. I have a long and happy marriage under my belt and a strong and fun relationship. I’m very content with where I am in that respect.

So what’s the problem?

Truth be told (cringing a little bit at this) part of my problem with getting older is that I’m now surrounded by younger people at work who don’t tell me I don’t look/act my age. Ha, there, I’ve said it! Up until my most recent job I’ve worked mainly with people who are a similar age or older. In my current role there are a lot of people who are younger than me, including my manager, and it seems to have had this weird effect on me where I constantly point out my age / call myself old / talk about when I was younger…AND NO-ONE TAKES THE BAIT!! What they’re supposed to say is “you don’t look any older than us” or “I can’t believe you’re 41”. Stupid work colleagues.

Vanity

Coupled with that, vanity cards on the table, another problem is how I look. I don’t think I look that different, but if no one is picking up on my (not so subtle) hints, then I must do. I’ve started becoming very aware of wrinkles, wanting botox and/or considering a fringe. I’ve even started using face cream more regularly! I’m heavier than I’d like to be which is could be because I enjoy a life of eating and drinking, but could also be down to getting older and a slower metabolism (I’ll keep telling myself that).

Writing it all down sounds, quite frankly, ridiculous, and I’m almost tempted to delete this post and never publish it but I think it’s important to be honest here on this blog, and maybe other women my age will read it and not feel such a loser if they have similar thoughts.

I wouldn’t go back to being in my 20s for anything (not that it’s a possibility anyway), so I need to just get a grip and embrace “the gift of life” (ha ha, I can’t pull that hippy BS off!) Failing that, does anyone know a good botox practitioner?!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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5 things that make me feel like a grown up

Feeling like a grown up - small girl with hands up in the air

Being a grown up is a funny thing. Most people of a certain age, at least in my social circle, say they don’t feel like a grown up, and can’t believe where the years have gone. To me, being a grown up is being a responsible adult, which I don’t always class myself as! That said, there are occasions when it hits me that “woah, I am!”

Most recently was last weekend, when I spent £48 of my hard earned cash on a green recycling bin. Aside from the fact I have to pay when there are other local borough councils who issue them for free, I got really excited about it being delivered! Then got really excited about filling it! The ivy in our back garden has taken a bit of a battering as a result, but at least I feel like I’m properly getting my monies worth.

Here are 5 more things that make me feel like a grown up

Buying myself fresh flowers for the house

Younger me would NEVER have spent money on something so frivolous, but older me feels really together and mature at buying blooms for my dining table

Life admin

Self explanatory really; pensions and life insurance and really complicated but VERY IMPORTANT stuff. I’m currently trying to change our life insurance policy and it gives me a headache.

Cooking a roast dinner

A roast dinner is a grown up meal cooked by a grown up, no? There are so many different elements, and timings. It feels like a grown up way to feed people. I love cooking a roast dinner, especially with a couple of cheeky vinos!

Ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant

There’s something so grown up about going out for dinner and ordering a bottle of wine to share with the husband. Perusing a wine menu seems very mature to someone who orders wine by the glass based on price and percentage! As does paying over the odds for something you could probably get at half the price in the supermarket.

Using a trolley at the supermarket

I use a trolley once a year – at Christmas when I’m buying ALL the food and drink. Most of the time I just get a basket and buy a few bits at a time. Trolleys are for parents with children or people with freezers who buy in bulk or batch cook. Not for people like me!

Are there things that sometimes remind you that you’re an actual real life grown up? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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My first (and last?!) experience with Airbnb

Remember earlier this year when I shared my travel plans for 2019? Including my first foray into Airbnb for a trip to New York in September?

Yeah, that’s not happening anymore.

Last Saturday, with no explanation, I received an email from Airbnb to tell me my 6 night reservation at an apartment in Greenwich Village had been cancelled, and I’d be receiving a refund for monies paid so far.

Say what?

Surely there’s been a mistake?

My first thought was that there must have been some mistake. I sent a message to the host asking him why I’d received the cancellation notice.

Nothing.

I sent a Twitter DM to Airbnb asking if they could help. They checked my personal details and the reservation and confirmed that yes, it was cancelled. Had I contacted the host? (well yeah, duh). In which case they would get a “dedicated case manager” from a “specialised team” to get in touch with me.

In the meantime I obviously started looking for alternative accommodation. We knew when we booked the ill fated apartment that it was incredibly good value for a stay in New York so, unsurprisingly, there was little out there in a similar price range. Hotels were coming up at £600 more than the Airbnb, and there were no other Airbnb apartments in the location we wanted.

Side note – New York accommodation is bonkersly expensive. £200 a night to sleep in a bunk bed with a shared bathroom? Daylight robbery!

Airbnb, while polite, were annoyingly hands off in terms of taking any responsibility. Their response when I asked for some compensation to cover the additional costs of rebooking was “Airbnb is a third party platform that bridges the gap between hosts and guests, and we do not offer compensation when a guest has to cancel a reservation.”

Screw you New York!

At this point we’d pretty much mentally checked out the trip. I’d been in touch with the airline to see if we could get any refund on the flights (we can get the tax refunded, which means losing about £300 total, which is still cheaper than paying £600+ for a hotel).

Meanwhile, the host had responded to advise that his property needs to undergo renovations and repairs (they mus be pretty major, because it’s still 3 months until our trip, sounds a bit fishy to me), and his reply included lots of exclamation marks and a seemingly non genuine apology, so that pissed me off even more!

Airbnb then offered me a £50 coupon (generous…not) and sent through some suggestions of alternative properties, conceding that the coupon wouldn’t cover the difference in cost but it would help. This was then upped to a groundbreaking £75. The apartments were an extra £300. You do the maths.

To cut a long story short…

We decided that one of the suggested apartments might be ok. Wouldn’t have been our first choice, but was better than nothing. And then we went to look into booking it and THE LISTING HAD DISAPPEARED!!!!

What fresh absolute fuckery! Airbnb’s response this time around “if you cannot access the listing then I would assume that it has been removed by the host. We do not have the option to check any further.”

Any last shred of wanting to use them evaporated there and then. Absolutely no faith whatsoever that we wouldn’t end up in the same situation all over again closer to our departure date.

Although I don’t want to use them again, I do now have £75 credit to use within a year! Which means that I inevitably will use them again. Next time will be for a UK stay only where there are no massive repercussions if it does get cancelled, and no flights or travel plans to pay for.

I’ve since heard cancellation stories from 4 different people, which I wish I’d known in advance of the original booking. I had no idea that Airbnb take no responsibility for cancelled bookings. When a host cancels they get charged a 50 dollar “fine” and can’t relist on the Airbnb site during that time period. But if you’ve managed to let your space for more money elsewhere then 50 bucks isn’t going to cause you any heartache.

I’m sure there are way more success stories than negatives out there, but that’s it for me!

Have you ever used Airbnb? Let me know your experiences.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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A life update, and why it’s good to talk

It's good to talk : Wooden scrabble tiles spelling life with text "a life update"

If you’re in the UK and *ahem* of a certain age you might remember the BT adverts with Bob Hoskins declaring “it’s good to talk”. Bob was advertising telephone services. I’m not. But his sentiment is absolutely bang on!

I’ve had quite a lot going on in recent weeks. A weekend away at a festival, a weekend away in Norway, work stuff, family stuff and just stuff. It’s fair to say that my mental health hasn’t been at it’s best. Not in an “I’m going to hide away and not face the world” way. Just feeling a bit jangled and not quite right. It’s hard to explain unless you know, but I’ve been living with my own head for long enough to be able to pinpoint when it’s off kilter. There’s often nothing you can do…just ride it out.

Father’s Day

A contributing factor to the way I’ve been feeling is very likely to be Father’s Day. It’s my third Father’s Day without my Dad this year. It’s a difficult time anyway, but when I’m feeling a bit jangled, I miss him even more. He was a very calming influence in my life and really helped me at times when I was frayed, stressed or angry. He had a way of making me see things more logically instead of my self internalised, often overreacting, often self pitying way. He was a very sensible man, and he was very good at helping me to rationalise.

Now, it’s not that without my Dad I don’t have anyone to speak to. But, for some reason, I have built it up in my head recently that I don’t want to speak about the stuff that’s being going on in my life. So I’ve kept it all in my head, building it up to oversized proportions, feeling like crap, convincing myself that no-one can help me like my Dad could, and basically being a bit of a drama queen! Unfortunately for the husband, he’s been on the receiving end, which is pretty mean of me and for which I have since apologised.

Good news – after reaching boiling point earlier this week, I talked! Well, not so much talked as spewed forth a whole heap of anger, vitriol, stress, upset and frustration. I cried. And I shouted. I said “and another thing” quite a lot.

It’s good to talk

I feel heaps better.

As well as reminding myself that it’s good to talk, I have reminded myself (or been reminded) not to take things personally, not to feel attacked, and that it’s ok that I’m not 100% perfect or successful in everything I do.

Will I remember these lessons? Probably not. But it certainly makes for a happier me in the short term, which makes for a happier husband too!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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A day trip to Lokrum Island, Dubrovnik

We could see Lokrum island from the terrace of our apartment when we went to Dubrovnik last year (read more about it here). We watched boats sailing across the short stretch of sea from the harbour, we saw people sea kayaking towards it and we did a loop of the island in our speed boat trip on the first afternoon.

The next step was to actually get on to the island and explore it for ourselves!

Passenger ferries run from the mainland harbour on a regular basis, and the cost is very reasonable (I’m being vague here because I can’t remember, it’s been almost a year since we were there and I’ve been a lax blogger in posting about it!). The journey takes 10-15 minutes and is very popular, so if you have a specific timescale in mind, make sure you get there early (similarly for the return journey, people queue in advance).

Lokrum is a National Park

Similarly to old town Dubrovvnik, Lokrum was used as a filming location for Game of Thrones – many of the scenes in the city of Qarth were filmed there (then heavily CGI’d, so it’s not obviously recognisable).

There’s a small GoT exhibition, which is mainly in Croatian, but you do get to sit on a replica of the Iron Throne, which is kinda fun!

Outside of that there are some attractive benedictine monastery ruins, a botanical garden (which was past its best, tbh), free roaming peacocks and rabbits and an inland Dead Sea which many people swim in (which was VERY cold and VERY awkward to get into because of the rocks underfoot).

Sea swimming is also very popular, and there are nudist areas around the coastline, if that tickles your fancy!

Lokrum island is a national park, and no-one is allowed to stay overnight – the island is vacated by 7.30 every evening. It’s very green and relaxing, but there isn’t an awful lot to do there. It’s definitely worth a visit, as long as you have the right expectations (or just want to chill out and do nothing!)

As I said in my previous post, Dubrovnik is a very beautiful city and one that I would recommend to anyone. It would be daft not to visit Lokrum unless you were desperately short of time, and the ferry journey also gives you a different view of the city looking back into the old harbour.

Have you been to Dubrovnik?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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A t-shirt with a story

Row of tshirts hanging on washing line

I still have the t-shirt I was wearing on the day my Dad died. I remember dressing in a mad panic after receiving the early morning unexpected phonecall that I needed to get to the hospital. Most probably I grabbed it from the floor (I’m an untidy person); fumbling as I got dressed, pulling on my jeans and trying to fasten my shoes. Every second was precious, I needed to jump in my car and get to my Dad before it was too late.

As it happened my Dad’s last day was a long one. I wore that t-shirt right through into the early hours of the morning, after he’d died and we’d left the hospital. In the rush I hadn’t showered or brought a change of clothes with me, but none of it seemed to matter.

That t-shirt sits in my wardrobe, and I see it every so often when I flick through my clothes. It’s survived a house move and multiple wardrobe culls but I haven’t worn it since that day. I guess I can’t bring myself to, but I also don’t want to part with it.

Last night

Last night, getting changed to potter in the garden and have barbecue food for dinner, my fingers skimmed over the t-shirt. On a whim I pulled it on with a pair of jeans. I’m not sure what I expected to feel, but I decided not to think it through too much. Instead I went out into the evening sun, tidied up some of the garden beds, drank wine and laughed with my husband.

close up of t-shirt with feathers

Now that t-shirt is more than just a distressing memory to me. It’s also a nice memory, of a Spring evening doing what I love. My Dad would have liked that.

Clothes, for me, are more than just clothes. They’re memories, thoughts, happiness, sadness, upset, drama. I closely associate clothes with emotions. If I”m wearing an outfit I don’t like it can ruin my whole day,.

But clothes, like feelings, can change. And last night I changed that t-shirt to a nicer thing. I think I’ll wear it more often.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Well done Meghan!

How wonderful to see Meghan Markle in her first public appearance since the birth of little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. She looked beautiful – radiant, natural and just post-baby. Her still existent bump was refreshingly honest in a world of “perfect” celebs and their perfect figures.

Her tousled hair and fresh faced glow was very real. Her choice of outfit – belted and fitted and not designed to hide any post birth lumps and swellings – was lovely. The way she beamed at Harry as he cradled their newborn son was full of love and adoration.

I applaud her and Harry for taking the decision to appear publicly in their own time, when it suits them, rather than bowing to public pressure to do the traditional hospital steps photo call. Regardless of their status as royals and, as some would say, public property, they’re a young couple in love who’ve just welcomed their first child. It’s a special and precious time for them, and they shouldn’t have to stick to any timetable apart from one they’re comfortable with.

I also love the move away from tradition when it comes to baby Archie’s name. I don’t think anyone saw anything so “un-Royal” on the cards – especially the bookmakers who had the favourites down as Arthur or James. Not even a nod to royal tradition with the baby’s middle name either. I wonder if we’ll ever find out the reasoning behind Harrison? (I like to think Harry’s a secret Indiana Jones fan and has honoured Harrison Ford!)

Hopefully the press will leave them alone now to just be a family and enjoy these precious times.

What do you think of it all? Do you like the baby’s name Let me know in the comments.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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A weekend in Paignton

No-one was more surprised than me when we booked up to go away at Easter for a weekend in Paignton. It wasn’t on our travel plans for 2019. Firstly, going away for Easter wasn’t even on the cards; we hadn’t even talked about it. Secondly, we haven’t been to Paignton in 11 years. The husband used to holiday there as a kid, and we went a couple of times early on in our relationship, but the economy took its toll on the English seaside town, like many others across the country, and we heard reports of closed pubs, boarded up frontages and a general feeling of rundown-ness which didn’t appeal.

So, what changed? We’d heard that the town had received investment and was in better shape. But what really swung it was watching Channel 4’s “Four in a Bed” programme, and talking fondly of staying in a UK guesthouse by the seaside. Fuelled by a couple of glasses of wine (as the best plans always are) our weekend in Paignton was booked!

What did we get up to?

We had loose plans of what we wanted to do over the course of our 3 night break (woo-hoo for a long weekend at Easter), but of course we knew we’d be held to ransom by the British weather. We needn’t have worried though. Like much of the UK, Paignton was bathed in wall to wall sunshine with higher than average temperatures, which meant we spent pretty much all of our time outside.

Out and about

We walked along the coast from Paignton and up to Roundham Gardens looking down on Goodrington Sands. You wouldn’t think that some of these views were in the UK, especially not in April!

We caught the Dartmouth Steam Railway train from Paignton to Kingswear, and then got the ferry across to Dartmouth.

Then we walked along the riverfront to Bayard’s Cove, before heading to the Above Town area and walking past coloured houses and through woods down to Dartmouth Castle.

There isn’t an awful lot to see at the castle, but there are some educational exhibitions and hands on things for kids like helmets to try (which, FYI, also fit adult heads too – I speak from experience), plus the views back down the river to Kingswear and Dartmouth were stunning. We got 20% off the entrance price with our steam railway ticket, so we only paid £6.60 each. It’s free if you’re a member of English Heritage, which we keep saying we’re going to join but never get round to, although I think it’s only a matter of time!

Then, on Sunday, we went to Paignton Zoo! It’s quite a hilly zoo, so probably not great for people with mobility issues. We saw lions, monkeys, giraffes, the elephant, zebras, ostriches and camels. The tigers weren’t out to play, which was a shame but we were super chuffed to see everything else. There are peacocks wandering freely around the paths too.

Where next?!

Have to be honest, I always overlook going away in the UK in favour of going overseas – mainly because of the weather situation! Let’s face it, our weekend in Paignton would have been very different if it had been raining; which there’s always a chance of during British summertime. That said, I’m so keen to see more of the South West. I’d happily do another weekend in Paignton. There’s so much to do in the area, including the other 2 English Riviera towns of Torquay and Brixham. I’m keen to explore some of Cornwall too.

Do you love visiting the UK? Any tips for where else I should put on my list?

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Why I disagree with gender neutral parenting

Gender

Gender neutral parenting was in the press recently. More specifically, the press reported that Harry and Meghan, aka the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are planning to raise their child gender neutral.

Of course this very probably isn’t what they’ve said at all. I’m sure they’ve said that they will raise their child without traditional gender constructs, which is what parents with any common sense do anyway. You know the thing – if they have a son and he wants to play with dolls that’s fine, and if their baby is a girl who wants to play with cars that’s also fine. That’s not gender neutral parenting at all. That’s just being a good parent. And a modern parent. Both of which Harry and Meghan are able to be, despite the fact that they’re royals.

He or she?

Gender neutral parenting is raising your child without acknowledging their gender. Not calling them he or she. Not referring to them as a boy or a girl. Allowing them to find their own way and decide on their gender as they grow up and experience life

Now I am neither a parent or ever have the intention of being one (regardless of the suggestions I mentioned in my last post!) so you may think my opinion is a moot one. That said, this is my blog and I pretty much have an opinion on everything, ergo I’ll proceed.

Bonkers

In a nutshell, I think that gender neutral parenting is absolutely bonkers. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll be aware that I have no issue with gender fluidity or changing gender. I very recently posted about an enlightening and heartwarming transgender documentary I’ve been watching. If you haven’t been following then let me make this statement – I very much believe that people can be and are born in the wrong body, and that they should be entitled to treatment to correct biology’s mistake. Science says it’s real, the experiences of actual humans say it’s real, and so, for me, it’s real.

But I’ll say it again, gender neutral parenting is, in my opinion, bonkers.

How are you supposed to know what you are, or more specifically what you aren’t, if you’re brought up without an identity? Surely transgender women know that they’re women, because they’ve been raised as a boy and know that doesn’t “fit”. And vice-versa, obviously. If you’re raised as “they” then what do you rebel against? You have nothing to identify with, and therefore nothing to compare yourself against, surely?

Special treatment

Imagine sending a child to nursery or childcare, and insisting they do not be referred to as he or she. Immediately you’re setting them apart as different; as deserving of special treatment. They get called a different pronoun to any of the other children, and the other children maybe want to know why? What toilet arrangements are made for them? Because, like it or not, male and female toilets are still a thing in life. Not everywhere, of course. But if a young child comes across male toilets and female toilets and no “they” toilet, what is that telling them? Isn’t that stripping them of an identity? Making them, from a young age, into something that doesn’t always exist?

The difference between adults and children

Gender neutral adults can handle situations like this – they’ve been around long enough to know that we live in a gendered society (even if they don’t agree with it). But young children don’t have that understanding. Why would you choose to set your child apart in such a way?

I’m no expert, obvs. Some would argue that starting with gender neutral parenting is the way to achieve a gender neutral society in the future. But, for now, I can’t help but think some parents are trying too hard to do the right thing, and in doing so they’re doing something very wrong.

Your child is born a girl or a boy. If at some point they tell you they’re the opposite of their assigned birth gender, listen to them. Support them. Be there for them. If they tell you they are neither male or female then the same applies.

That’s good parenting.

Gender issues

In the meantime, if your son wants to play with dolls and has a toy cooker, that doesn’t mean he has gender issues. If your daughter tells you she wants to be Superman instead of Superwoman, that doesn’t mean she’s transgender.

In trying to do the right thing, parents are going too far. They’re creating something that doesn’t need to exist at birth. Experience and research shows that children who are transgender will begin to self identify at a young age, regardless of what they have been labelled as in early months and years. Jazz Jennings is perhaps the most prevalent case of a boy knowing they’re a girl. Thankfully Jazz’s parents listened to her. Would gender neutral parenting from birth have helped? Who knows.

All I know is that if and when my nephew (due July this year) wants to try on my shoes, I’ll be right there suggesting the ones that look best with his outfit! Experiencing different things, with no restrictions because of what society might think is appropriate for your gender, is the best way to become a well rounded person.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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I’m not pregnant – it’s just how I’m standing!

I'm not pregnant - lots of different bowls full of food

The first time (to my knowledge) anyone assumed I was pregnant we were in Chicago. It was almost 9 years ago, for the husband’s 40th birthday. We were on a 3 night city break before going to LA. It was June and it was hot. We’d spent the evening at Dick’s Last Resort, a bar overlooking the Chicago River, eating and drinking with gay abandon. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup (a big deal in ice hockey terms, I believe). We were caught up in the excitement of the city, of our holiday, and…well…life!

I remember I was wearing a fairly figure hugging halter neck maxi dress from Jane Norman. It was white with an oversized black and taupe palm print all over. And, as we walked across the bridge back to our hotel, an old seemingly homeless dude shouted “hey Mama!”

Did he think I was pregnant? I don’t know for sure. It made us laugh at the time because I was full of American sized portion fried food and drink from Dick’s Last Resort. I was a walking food baby. “Hey Mama!” became part of our vocabulary when I overate and looked like I was having twins. It was funny.

8 years later

Fast forward 8 years to last summer. We went to see the Foo Fighters at Wembley Arena (side note, the obnoxious drunk wee throwing crowd spoilt it). As we approached security, after the LONGEST walk, the guy with the body scanner asked if I was pregnant. I feigned mock outrage. He said he has to ask everyone because of the scanning machinery (this was a lie, I asked my friends in other queues). In his defence I was wearing a really loose fitting smock dress. I was also clearly already “Saturday happy” (tipsy A.F) so I was either not preggers or a shit Mom-to-Be.

No human growing here

Although 8 years apart, these events both stuck in my mind. Partially because I think it’s kinda funny (I’m the least maternal person I know, so the very thought of me being with child is cause for mirth!) Obviously being pregnant is wonderful. But being mistaken for it isn’t the best. It’s not horrible, it means I have a full tummy and a day/evening of enjoyment behind me. But it kinda means it’s OK my tummy is protruding if there’s a human growing inside it, but not OK if not.

Here’s the deal. I have the Rose tum. That’s not a romanticised way of referring to my middle section. Rose is my Mom’s maiden name. My Nan, my Grandad, my Mom, they all carried or carry weight around their waist. I inherited my Dad’s dark hair and skin, and height. For a while it looked like I inherited his metabolism. I could eat and eat and EAT and not gain weight. But the Rose gene has caught up with me..

Most recently, in Athens, the husband and I had talked and laughed about the two pregnancy “occasions”. And, whilst we were sightseeing, he reticently (I hope!) told me he could see why it had been said. I’m so aware of my posture and being upright that, in standing up very straight, my tummy pushes out.

There’s also a photo that I love, taken in Santorini last year as I jumped off a catamaran into the sea, and the first thing I notice when I look at it is my rounded middle.

Fuck it

It’s such a shame that society has made us feel we have to explain being anything other than stick then with a flat stomach. It doesn’t make us more or less of a person. And I wish I could say “fuck it” and not care. There are, after all, WAY bigger things to care about in life. But I do. I do care. Mainly because I love clothes, and gaining weight means that some of my clothes no longer fit me as well as they used to, and I don’t feel comfortable in styles I would like to wear.

Funny how “Dad-bods” are celebrated, yet women’s bodies of all types are still insulted and commented upon!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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