Thursday, 25 May 2017

Will the real 'Jon Drake' please stand up?

As someone who has lurked around a multitude of dating websites (POF, Tinder, Match, OKCupid, Bumble - God loves a trier right?) for near on half a decade, I consider myself pretty proficient at weeding out the porn bots, foot fetishists and fuck boys. If there is a category of dire human beings on the interweb, the likelihood is that I've probably dated them and learnt a tough lesson as a consequence. I have been ghosted so often in 2017 that I am beginning to think Casper 'the friendly  ghost' is a biographical movie of my life. It is no a great surprise to anyone then that my friends often describe my approach to dating as 'guarded' or 'suspicious'. On a night out, I strap on my 'don't even fucking think about it' perfume and pair it with my 'touch me and I'll get the pepper spray' handbag and I’m normally home in bed alone by 2am with a bag of cheesy chips for company. Last week, after another wine clouded conversation with a married friend about my loveless love life, she suggested I retired my broomstick and cauldron and attempted to become a more approachable, less resting bitch face internet dater. 

Please direct this "Jon' to my DM's
So the next day, I swallowed my positive pant pill and opened up my Tinder app and began swiping to my little shrivelled up heart’s content. I matched quite quickly with a beautiful specimen of a human being named ‘Jon’. Dark hair, brown sultry eyes and a jaw line I could shave parmesan cheese with. Yes please! He messaged me shortly afterwards, Shakespeare wasn't quivering in his boots, but he was pretty so I messaged him back. And then, nothing. So far - so standard. Then three days later a little message to say that he had been busy and an apology and then we chatted. The conversation flowed. He was witty, silly and funny and I felt the ice around my chest begin to thaw a little. Sure, there were moments when Negative Nora tried to interpret some of his messages, like the time he said he couldn't take a selfie because his "camera was broke" or the fact he seemed super keen to impress me, sending me videos of his 'man cave' and £90 bottles of vodka. But when Nora raised her head, I squished her down and thought, 'What would Cher from Clueless do?' as I twiddled my fluffy pen in my fingers and tied another glitter scrunchie in my hair. "I shall not be a bitter spinster, I shall not be a bitter spinster."

After four days of 1am texting and giggling like a frigid school girl, I began to think that my new attitude to dating was indeed working and it would not be long before I joined my married mates on coffee date, where we would talk about mortgages, throw cushions and the Next catalogue. And then during the day he sent me a photo. It was a random photo of some work he had been doing on this house he was apparently refurbishing (did I tell you he owned a building company?!).

"Hey!" I said, "Isn't your camera broke?"


"Well if your camera works, I definitely deserve a selfie"


Please direct this 'Jon' to my blocked list
And then a photo came through and I eagerly opened it. Wow, I thought, cute eyes. Then I scanned the rest of his face. It did not look like the pictures I had seen before. His jaw line seemed less defined, slimmer and perhaps a little obsolete. His lips, not so pouty, thinner, less cute. And then those eyes, those big brown eyes in the Tinder photos were now small, bright blue eyes. Positive Polly suggested it was a bad angle, a bad day, perhaps a very old photo. But Negative Nora knew the truth. I had been bloody catfished. Catfishing is the term used for people who use fake online profiles in order to persue someone, usually romantically. And on this occasion that someone was me.

Bizarely, he made me confront him about it. "You're not the same person" I noted. "Well he said, long story but..." He suggested he had broken his phone and was using a friend's Tinder to save his ex girlfriend's feelings, but he had enjoyed chatting to me and hoped I would continue talking to him even though he was a completely different person. It seemed irrelevant to him that he had been posing as a completely different person for 4 days, that his name, his job, his face had all been a lie. He seemed to that because we had gotten on whilst he was ‘Jon’ that I would somehow transfer those feelings to this ‘John Doe”. I called him a few names and then deleted and blocked him. Not without learning a whole new set of lessons about the dating world first. 

1) Never Trust Your Married Friends

Bless them and their rose tinted view on all things relationship. If your married friends' last experience of dating was back when Craig David could still make love from Wednesday to Saturday without a Viagra and a nap, then don't trust a single word of advice they utter. Their intentions are good, they are happy, they want everyone to be as blissfully in love and as happy as them, but they have absolutely no concept of the Jumanji style jungle you are surviving in every time you open your dating app. I mean if a member of the Russian mafia hasn't tried to blackmail you over your nude selfies, have you even internet dated?? 

2) Verify, Verify, Verify

Nice try mate...
The great thing about our generation being so connected is that there are endless ways in which we can confirm the identities of others without even leaving our sofas. As soon as someone hands over their phone number, you can access almost all of their social media sites and check out whether they are who say they are. Even the most hipster anti social media wanker will have an old BEBO or Myspace account you can check out their teenage goth stage out. Sure it's a bit stalkery, but better to do a five minutes of lurking than wasting 4 days on an old man with an iPhone.

Additionally, there are lots of ways of getting live verification from someone without needing to become Columbo. Snapchat, Kik, FaceTime and Skype are all ways in which you can verify someone is who they say there are in less than a second. If they aren't keen to do this, there is probably a reason why. 

Point to note: I did this with the Catfish and I found his Facebook page. 'Jon Drake' did exist, however the only photos he had on his FB profile were the same ones from his Tinder profile. He also only had one friend. One! It's almost laughable how desperate I was to ignore my gut feelings on this one. On that note...

3) Trust Your Gut

Excuse the spelling mistakes, I was raging. 
There is a reason why 'gut instinct' is a universal term for when something seems a bit fishy. Our bodies are sensitive sausages and they react instinctly to when we feel unsafe or in danger. It’s the reason why when we burn ourselves on the frying pan we don’t leave our arm in the fat and wait for our brain to reflect on what the emotional damage might be. Throughout my conversations with ‘Jon’ my gut was telling me there was something not right. For a handsome man, he seemed overtly keen for me to like him. Now I am not saying pretty people can’t be interesting, but normally, good-looking people don’t need to put much effort into getting people to like them.

However, Jon would send me photos of different things he owned, pictures he had painted and would try and keep me engaged in conversations long after I had told him I was going to bed. At the time, I thought it was weird that he was so keen but Positive Polly wasn’t having any of my naysayer attitude, in reality, Polly should have shut the fuck up. Long live Bitter Betty!

If It Seems Too Good To Be True – It Probably Is

Now that I’ve let Bitter Betty out of the closet, I want to ensure you that I do not say this as some old hag who wants you to doubt anything good can come into your life. However, this isn’t ’10 Things I Hate About You’ and Heath Ledger isn’t about to serenade you on the football pitch in front of the whole school. This is real life and people are flawed, faulty and sometimes idiotic beings. Of course we all pump up our statistics on the internet to make ourselves seems a little better (Hello Instagram!) and lying on a dating profile isn’t anything new. But if the guy you are talking to is a 6ft, Thor like creature, who is a top 100 CEO whilst also doing a bit of charity work on the weekends, yet is still swiping madly on a Tuesday afternoon, then he probably isn’t real mate.  

So after five years of internet dating, I experienced my first Catfish. It makes a change from the ghosting, at least these ones text you back.

Have you ever been lied to on the internet? Any hot tips on how to avoid the Catfishes on Tinder? Let me know in the comments below, Bitter Betty could do with your help before she buys a cattery and a chastity belt.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Oh Hay, I am in the newspaper now. Like a famous. 

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, a little article was published about my binge eating disorder in Fabulous Magazine, in The Sun on Sunday. Have a little gander at it here

Monday, 1 May 2017

Can you be "Body Positive" when you hate your body? 

The clean eating fad of 2016 is well and truly dead. Step forward the latest trend in Instagram worthy posts - "Body Positivity". The avocados are out and the cheeseburgers and exposing your flesh is in and we are all supposed to feel mildly happy about this. No longer do we need to work out for 2 hours a day and gulp down spirulina smoothies like little radiant sun beams of health, for the world is ready to embrace us, whether fat, thin, bloated or lean. Brands are jumping on that 'Body Positivity' train as quick as they kicked the Hemsley sisters off it, and we are told it is time to embrace our scars, stretch marks and cellulite and feel positively grateful for their existence. Except, if you spend any time flicking through the body positive or 'bopo' tags on social media, what you will see is a lot of (predominately) white women, with luscious boobs, nipped in waists and back ends you could stack your groceries on. These women are beautiful, and polished and they make me feel anything but positive about my naked flesh. Even as the world begins to embrace the curvier female figure, what do you do, if even your plus size body doesn't fit the mould? 

I have always been aware of my body for as long as I can remember. I am a fully paid member to the flat bum, fat tum squad. There has never been any junk in the trunk, but gut in the gunt, I've got plenty. As I grew up, I became more conscious of what was wrong with my figure and less aware of what was right. I would diet, and exercise and dream of rock hard abs and quickly fell into this pattern of restricting and bingeing, before I fell face first into a fully-fledged eating disorder. As a mental health issue, eating disorders really do a number on your brain and your body. After a decade of starving and stuffing myself, my body was in dire straits. I was overweight, bloated and exhausted. I quickly began to isolate myself from my friends and family, conscious of what people would think about my escalating weight. My life became solely about the way I looked and there was nothing more important than that number on the weighing scales.  I gained degrees and masters, I was promoted and excelled in my career, I had relationships and fell in love, but nothing mattered more than how I looked in the mirror.

As I move into recovery, I am finding parts of my life have begun to come alive again, my friendships are blossoming, my social life is increasing and the importance of my weight slips and slides down the scale of relevance on a daily basis. However, I know how I look remains incredibly important to me. I know how much I weigh to the pound, I am conscious of what I put into my mouth and sometimes I still crawl in bed and envelope myself in my duvet because I can’t bear the world to see me. There are times when I stare at my body and I hate it. I hate its lumps and bumps, the way it moves and jiggles and blubbers about. I will lay on my bed and grab and pull at my belly and at the worst times think about how I would love to take a knife and slice away all the parts I really detest. The idea that I would find an ability to love these parts is such an alien concept to me that when I scroll through the body positive posts I want to scream at all the women at the top of my voice “HOW!?”

In the most part, the bopo movement is about finding acceptance in your self, and as a notion it isn’t the worst. Of course we would all love to wake up tomorrow and look at ourselves in the mirror and skip happily down the road in our bikinis singing “I’m pretty, Oh so pretty” at the top of our lungs. But is that even possible? Like with the clean eating movement, the issue I have with bopo (and in particular brands use of body positivity as a selling tool) is that it is a fad, a way of selling us a shiny glossy slice of a perfection most of us will never achieve. It trivializes our relationships with our body and societies views of our figures as one we can just overcome by sticking on a two-piece and a nice filter. As someone who has spent years hating my body, the bopo movement encapsulates all the pressures I feel to conform, just in this instance, rather than a svelte goddess with a smoothie bowl, we now need to be a curvy queen with a cupcake.

As the bopo movement skyrockets into the mainstream, is there a way in which we can embrace the values of body acceptance and loving ourselves, without the need to conform to the hourglass ideals that fill our timelines? One of the greatest tools I have gained through my recovery is to begin to realise that my body is more than just what it looks like. My body has kept me going throughout everything I put it through, and (minus a gall bladder) it’s coping quite well. My body is strong. I can’t run to save my life, but give me a bench press and I will lift weights until my hearts content. If I were born in pre-historic times, someone would have knocked me over the head with a club and dragged me to his cave years ago, because I would have saved our village during an avalanche. I can move those rocks! The fact is, my body is badass, it can move and jump and dance and it is more than just what it looks like on the outside. This thought process gets me out of bed, even on my worse days because I know I can do anything I want to do, if I let my body take the reigns rather than my brain. I am beginning to accept that I may never be 100% happy with how my body appears, and that there may well be days I lay on the floor surrounded by clothes, but with nothing to wear because I am having a ‘bad body’ day. And actually that’s ok. In the future I hope that by feeling more positive about what my body can do, rather than how it looks, those ‘bad body’ days may become less frequent and I can truly begin to accept who I am. For perhaps, body positivity isn’t about accepting what I hate but embracing what I love.