21 things I learned in 2014

December 15, 2014

Every day’s a school day, that’s what they say. Well for me, 2014 has pretty much been a degree in what-the-fuck-is-going-on and, come New Year’s Eve, I am confident I will graduate with a modest 2:2.

As cheesy as it sounds, I am a very different person to the one I was this time last year. I mean, we’re not talking caterpillar-to-butterfly type transformations, more like…caterpillar-to-slightly-less-ridiculous-caterpillar. Even so, I’ve learned a lot about life, love and looking good.

Here are 21 (largely unrelated) things that I’ve learned these past 12 months….

How to be single

For my entire adult life I have been in the confusing situation of being simultaneously perennially single and always in a relationship. It’s a bizarre, confusing situation to be in, that will halt your life like an iceberg in the path of the Titanic. You can’t turn back time, you can’t go around it… all you can do is stall a little, until you hit. And you will founder, and you will hit rock bottom, and there’s nothing you can do about it. While it may be easier, particularly around smug-marrieds, to keep this person in your life, I promise you that you are better off alone. This year, for the first time in ten years, I got to experience what it was like to be truly, Bridget Jones style, everyone making crazy cat lady jokes because I’m closer to 30 than I am 20, single. It took a lot for me to break away from what I was miserably comfortable with, but even when I did, I was too scared to admit it to people. I would ‘fake it’, saying my boyfriend was fine when people I knew like old friends, hair dressers and (oddly enough) the pizza delivery guy would enquire about him. It was easier to pretend we were still together than to embrace the inevitable patronising single-shaming from all angles. Sticking with the Titanic theme, though. On the surface (terrible pun, and they only get worse from here, I’m afraid) the 1997 flick might seem like just another love story, but it’s so much more than that, it actually serves as a very valuable lesson. Rose is in a relationship with someone for the wrong reasons, and she is miserable. She finally finds love and happiness with Jack and she takes a leap, deciding to be with him instead. We all know what happens next. If Titanic taught me anything it’s that you shouldn’t waste one precious minute of your life with someone you don’t love/are not happy with. Even if he looks like Billy Zane with hair, you must always hold-out for your Jack. After all, you never know when the ship’s going to hit the iceberg.

I take TV way too seriously

Speaking of my bungee-less bungee jump into the forever-alone abyss, it was around the time of my epic break-up that I realised I have a huge problem with taking TV too seriously and the subsequent distribution of my emotions. In the real world, my emotions rarely get the better of me. It’s unusual you’ll see me crying and rather than explode with anger when someone pisses me off or wrongs me in any way, I seem to have inherited that calm but creepy horses-head-in-the-bed Italian overreaction. Why get upset or mad when you can get even? Pre 2014, I knew that I had issues. Breaking Bad – arguably the greatest televisual masterpiece to date – really hit me in the feels (Ozymandias, especially) and even back in the Lost days (the show responsible for my televisual awakening) I was displacing my emotions onto fictional characters. I realise this doesn’t sound as pathetic as it is, so let me confess that I can’t even hear the score from Through The Looking Glass without filling up. It’s been a tough TV year, with shocking moments from the likes of House of Cards and Game of Thrones, but things came to a head when they killed off a character in my favourite TV show. Now, this isn’t a show like The Walking Dead where both main cast and ‘zombie fodder’ are killed off on an episodic basis, this was a grounded-in-our-reality drama that I have watched for years without ever seeing anyone die. Not only was I in love with this character, but he was 50% of my all-time OTP. In the same week I lost my actual boyfriend, I watched my TV boyfriend get murdered in a shocking exit plot. Love was a lie. I was never going to be happy. The other half of my OTP was never going to be happy. Everyone was always going to leave everyone and we were all going to be alone forever until the world ended, when we would certainly die. Definitely alone. I was in a delicate state of mind, to say the least, and while I (obviously/thankfully) got over it very quickly, it made me realise what a powerful impact TV, movies, books and all other forms of stories can have on people, and I feel like my writing is really benefiting from this realisation – although obviously not in these over-sharing, GIF-based, TMI-fests that leaves everyone who knows me IRL wishing I’d left them out of it.

How to actually read the minds of men

Do you know what I do when I’m remotely fond of a person? I text them back. I don’t reserve interaction in the form of small talk for the love(s) of my life. If I care – even a fraction – if you live or die, I will always reply to your messages when I can. Because it’s human nature to not be a dick. Because it’s manners. Because I know that sometimes people just need to hear (or read) a friendly voice – myself included. We live in a scary time, my friends, of read receipts and algorithms and activity feeds – oh my. While once upon a time you would blame a slow reply/no reply to a message you sent on the other person simply being busy, these days technology makes things crystal clear: babe, he’s ignoring you. Those two blue ticks on Whatsapp, that one sinister, fateful word on Facebook: ‘seen’ – they will ruin your life, until you realise they are the quickest way to figure out who you should throw your time and effort into being around. A person doesn’t need to read and ignore your message for you to, well, get the message (or not, as the case may be). Facebook shares with everyone every little thing you do: when you’re online, when you ‘like’ something, etc. Whatsapp tells people when you’re online/were last online, Snapchat uses an algorithm that puts out there for all to see all the people he is interacting with that is not you. You don’t need to be a mind reader, dear. No reply = not interested. Maybe he’s semi interested; sometimes he replies, sometimes he doesn’t. Well look at it this way: are you truly being yourself when you talk to him, or are you being the version he replies to? Say he doesn’t give a damn about that big, life-changing event that just happened to you, but come 2am (that’s what we’ll call it from now on) when he’s drunk and texting you with his non-dominant hand, you’ll suddenly find him a lot more talkative. Men do not play by the rules that women do. They’re not keeping you keen. If they’re interested, you’ll know. I’m not saying you should oust/repurpose all the crap men in your life, but be smart. Know who actually cares about you and who just wants to touch your butt.

Online dating is truly awful

My venture into online dating was not a fruitful one. Newly single, I was assured that people didn’t just go out and meet people anymore, that there were apps for it. I tried a very creepy app called Happn that was truly terrifying, using your location to connect you with the people you were crossing paths with in the street – a cool idea in theory, but in practice when you’re looking at this map of the exact locations you came into contact with the single men in your hometown, and with an ongoing approximation of how far away from you they are, it just felt kind of creepy. The app that I spent the most time on had to be Tinder, though. Fun fun fun when you’re wasting away the hours swiping left or right on potential love interests, but absolutely soul-destroying when you go on to converse (or even meet up with) potential matches. I’m not saying that all men are the same, I’m just saying that most of the ones with something wrong with them are lurking on Tinder, pretending to be normal, waiting to catch you unawares. After a series of run-ins with super-selfish superficial men, stalkers and sexually aggressive psychopaths, I knew it was time to call it a day and start stockpiling cats for later in life. I learned that now is a terrifying time to be single and that this is not an ideal way to meet people, but I also learned a lot about men. I discovered that banter and beards and bulking up are up there with the most important things. I found out that men hate eyebrows and fake tans and pouts – unless they’re attached to someone they find attractive. Interestingly, I also observed that men look more attractive with sunglasses on, instantly turning someone who looks like Sloth from The Goonies into Channing Tatum.

Be careful who you trust

From my time on Tinder to the freaks and geeks of the streets, I’ve learned a valuable lesson in trust this year, and that is that you shouldn’t totally trust anyone. That’s probably a very sad approach to life, but at the end of the day you are the only person you can trust… and even you let yourself down sometimes. From people not keeping promises to dates from hell who way overstepped the mark, I’m way more conscious of winding up in bad situations. Being wronged by people you thought you could trust is the worst, because if they can hurt you, then anyone can. Whether it’s your bestie or a potential love interest, it’s true what they say about it being very easy to lose someone’s trust, and then near-impossible to earn it back. Of course, this can only be a good thing – it’s better to be safe than sorry – but having to explain your new-found trust issues to others is never a pleasant experience.

How to curl my hair with hair straighteners

I have very long, very thick, straight hair, and curling it is a lengthy and difficult task. Were my hair naturally curly, I imagine I’d prefer it straight, just to be awkward, and GHDs are great for this, and it’s quick and easy to achieve. For years, I have known how to curl my hair with GHDs, but have found it impossible to execute on my own, very long hair. I got by on a combination of plaits, rollers and curling wands – the latter of which I’d spend hours using, only to watch most of the curls drop before I’d even finished. I decided that 2014 was going to be the year I mastered curling my hair with GHDs, and if that’s all I have achieved this year, then I am happy. Top tips: once you’ve mastered the motion, know that the slower you go, the tighter your curl will be, and be sure you angle the straighteners downwards. Also, don’t forget to use protection; going without is a fast-track way to damaged, shorter locks.

I have terrible taste in men, confirmed by Frozen

First of all, if you haven’t seen Frozen and you plan to then stop reading because I will be discussing spoilers (click here to pick up a copy, it’s vital viewing). I grew up watching Disney classics and as much as I adore them, they have fucked me up. Goodies and baddies were always clearly labelled and true love was presented to us is the most beautiful all-singing, all-dancing package. When I sat down to watched Frozen, I had all this knowledge in the bank and I could see it playing out before my eyes. When Ana meets super-charming Hans you could see them falling in love, and just in case anyone had any doubt in their minds they confirmed their bond with a musical number celebrating their love and their mental synchronisation. They’re both beautiful, they sang, they danced, there was moonlight and stars and waterfalls and marriage proposals… beautiful, classic Disney, but way too early on in the film, which is confusing, but still. This is love, this is beautiful and I hope I meet my Hans someday. When a second man is introduced I felt really confused; who is this man for? This man has to be someone’s happy-ever-after… maybe her sister, Elsa’s? When I finally learned that Hans is an evil bastard-man, manipulating Ana so he can get his hands on her fortune, it left me feeling sick and realising that Disney broke me. A handsome face, a bitching musical number, and I’m anyone’s, it seems. Despite ticking all the boxes, Hans was evil. I went from swooning to shell-shocked. While I think it’s great that Disney are switching things up, it left me questioning my entire existence.

YOLO

I wouldn’t wish such a horrible experience on anyone, but there’s nothing like thinking you’re going to die to make you realise how much you want to live. Once you’ve had time to process this, it makes a simple thing like waking up each morning feel like the biggest miracle, and so long as you’re breathing, you’re happy, and the same goes for the ones you love. Grief is horrible, it washes over you like a wave knocking you off your feet, and you know that if you could just stand up, you could save yourself from drowning, but you just can’t seem to keep your balance. It takes time to get back on your feet. The term YOLO may be an annoyingly obnoxious thing that kind of makes you wish you didn’t even live once, but it is very true. This isn’t the dress rehearsal, this is the main event. Make the most of every uncomplicated second of your existence, because you never know when things are going to get difficult. Never be bored. Never put up with anything that makes you miserable. Never let anyone else make you feel bad. You’re alive and you’re surviving and you’re awesome.

Worrying is a waste of time

It’s easier said that done, but worrying really is a waste of your time because it doesn’t achieve anything. Worrying that something bad is going to happen won’t stop it happening. You’ll either prematurely suffer the consequences of the worst, or unnecessarily pre-empt something that was never going to happen. Either way, all your worrying did was make you feel bad when you didn’t need to. If you can change something, change it. If you can’t change something, then you can’t change it and worrying won’t change that.

I am incapable of flirting with adult human males

For someone who is supposed to have a way with words, I have a terrible way with words. It’s not that there’s a problem with the way I speak or the presentation, more that I am just incapable of saying the right things. It’s like my filter is broken, like I’m lacking in some kind of sense that makes me think before I speak. You guys see what I come out with in articles, that I have time to carefully consider, that I double check and then have other people proof read it and tell me which bits I have to absolutely take out… in life I am just pure, unadulterated, unfiltered Frankie, and that’s not always ideal. Whether it’s my preoccupation with punning, the fact I’ll use 30 words where three will do or the way I’ll absentmindedly make jokes about coffee being my crack in front of a recovering drug addict, people are just not my people, and if Tinder had anything going for it, it was the fact that I stopped to think about what I was saying, even if it was only for a split second.

Don’t be a dick

When life gives you shit, it can be tempting to make lemonade, stir in the shit, and then give the lemonade to the people who you don’t like. The thing is, you never really know what’s going on behind closed doors with other people. Have you ever been having a truly horrible day, and then a stranger has yelled at you for a silly reason? Normally you wouldn’t let it get to you, but on top of the horrible stuff you’re going through, it upsets you and makes things even worse. Don’t be that stranger to someone who is going through hell, because you’ll never know it just to look at a person, but everyone has stuff going on that no one knows about. Don’t let your bad day be the reason someone else’s bad day gets even worse, and hopefully people will pay you the same courtesy. What goes around, comes around, after all.

How to be a graceful victim of catcalling 

Everyone is talking about catcalling at the moment, but it isn’t a new concept. In fact, it’s something I – like most women – have dealt with pretty much from our teenage years onwards. Sometimes it’s just a wolf-whistle, sometimes it’s a passing remark – a guy walking up to you in a shop and announcing ‘I would’. It’s nice to be complimented, but it’s almost always going to be embarrassing coming from a stranger while out in public. What’s worse, though, is when people take it too far, venturing into sexual harassment and even assault – a gang of lads in Asda making sex noises at you, a man ‘secretly’ filming you on the train, a bloke in the street bending over right in front of you to actually look up your skirt… it’s not cool, it’s not nice and it’s not on. People don’t always do well with being ignored, but the best thing you can do is politely ignore the unwanted attention as best possible and remove yourself from the situation. Any kind of biting only spurs them on, so rise above it, ignore it, and get away from the creeps.

Most of my celebrity crushes are on unattainable men

My crushes in real life aren’t up to much, but my celebrity crushes truly are a waste of my time. The chances of winding up with any of your celebrity crushes are pretty slim, but I really go out of my way to make things difficult for myself by always ensuring there’s another factor that will make certain my love is unrequited. For the most part, I will lust after the older stars, who are almost certainly married. Joshua Jackson is pretty much the love of my life, but he’s as good as married to his long term girlfriend, Diane Kruger, so if proximity, the fact I am clearly not actor-girlfriend material and the small detail that we’ve never met weren’t going to quash our relationship before it got going, the longterm girlfriend makes short work of that. When I’m not crushing on taken men, my focus seems to be on gay men, and while one could argue that a man having a significant other is merely an obstacle that can be overcome, gay is gay and there’s no negotiating that. One of my biggest celebrity crushes is the luscious Mr Adam Lambert; the man is pretty much perfect boyfriend material. Adam is sexy, kind, talented and stylish – exactly the kind of perfect man any girl could hope for but, sadly for females/lucky for the fellas, Adam would much prefer a guy like that.
Joshua and Adam are just two names on a long list of crushes that are not just the usual kind of never-going-to-happen, they’re really, really, truly, never, ever, ever going to happen. Ever.

I don’t remember how to communicate like a grown-up

I’m trying to remember a time when I didn’t need all the internet had to offer to communicate with people. You’re dealing with a girl who can’t express an emotion without a GIF, a girl fully capable of having entire, meaningful conversations that consist of nothing but emoji, and yet everyone still knows what everyone means. I don’t send physical gifts or heartfelt messages any more, I’ll send people a link to Shia LaBeouf Live, Too Many Cooks or YOLO if I want to put a smile on their face.

How to be happy with the way you look

Very few people who know me now know that I used to be much bigger, and I have a hard time convincing people who didn’t know teenage-me that old photos are in fact of me. When you start dieting you realise that it’s actually kind of simple in theory; eat less, move more and you lose weight. As you see the number going down on the scale and the people around you reacting positively to the way you’re changing, something strange happens. You start to feel like the way you look matters more than anything, and that your value as a person is appropriate to how good you look. Sadly there are shallow people out there who will really hammer this message into you, but it’s not true. A wise woman once said: ‘if you can’t handle me at my Lil’ Kim, you don’t deserve me at my Beyonce’ and while it’s not the most profound thing you will ever read, it’s sort-of true. The way you look on the outside has no effect on who you are, and you shouldn’t let if define you. If you think you’ll be happier if you lose weight then do it, but often it doesn’t make you happier, just smaller. Women get hung up on thigh-gaps and obsess over articles like ’10 steps to look good in a bikini’. Look, if you want a thigh-gap that badly, just stand with your legs a little further apart, and as far as I’m aware there’s only one step to looking good in a bikini and that is simply: ‘step one: put on bikini’. It’s cliché, but it’s true, you need to be happy with yourself. No one is perfect. No one looks like the flawless celebrities on magazine covers – not even the stars themselves. Be happy with who you are and make the most of what you’ve got.

Real relationships are important

Racking up matches on Tinder, seeing how many friends you can amass on Facebook, serial dating dudes like you’re one of the Sex and the City girls… all that shit can seem fun and glamorous, but you don’t need a double or triple digit number of OK people in your life, you need a handful of fucking awesome people. Why waste time on a bunch of guys who could happily take or leave you when you can have just one person who thinks you are the most amazing person ever, and treats you accordingly. Family, friends and fellas who really care about you are all that matter. The people who will still love you when your looks fade, or you’re having a bad day and being a bit of a bitch (as is your right as a woman). You want people who will look out for you and happily take the rough with the smooth. People who could happily spend an entire Saturday chain-watching box sets with you in your onesie, not just people who think you’re good for a fumble on a Friday night… or come 2am.

TV is ruining men for me…

In every TV show I watch there is one man who would be perfect for me – where are these men in real life?! Where is Adam from Girls when I’m having a nervous breakdown? Where is Will Gardner from The Good Wife to tell me he’s not interested in anyone else? Where is Shane from The Walking Dead to go above-and-beyond for me, because he loves me so much? There’s a reason these TV shows do so well, because they paint of a picture of a life that we’re never going to live. I will never eat invisible peanut-butter on the beach with Charlie from Lost, Peter from Fringe will never sacrifice himself to save me and Hood from Banshee will never endure extreme torture to protect me. I’m making peace with this.

…and movies are really doing a number on my expectations

I’m slowly accepting that the movies I watched growing up are not representative of how life is going to play out. I’ve spent years waiting for a curly-haired fella to sing REO Speedwagon tunes with me at traffic lights, in his dad’s car, but it’s never happened. From Disney flicks to romcoms, everything movies taught me about relationships has been a big, fat, Hollywood lie. Once you realise this, if a guy so much as tells you that your hair looks ‘OK’ you’ll be putty in his hands. It raises your expectations so unrealistically high that, as a response, you will willingly make them so so low, you are so easily pleased. I’m not sure if this is good or not.

The internet is dark (and full of spoilers)

This year I have learned what a truly terrifying place the world wide web really is. The rise in popularity of shows like Catfish has done nothing to decrease the number of people pretending to be others online, instead all they have done is made us more aware of the fact that no one can be trusted. It isn’t just other people you need to worry about, everyone is hacking everyone. Your emails aren’t safe, your nudes aren’t safe – from the Fappening to the Snappening, no one and nothing is off limits. It isn’t just catfishes and hackers that you need to worry about, some might say the worst kind of people online are those who go out of their way to spoil TV shows for others. Whether people share spoilers with or without malicious intent, if you are behind on your favourite TV and you read it, you cannot un-see it. That big moment of finding something out naturally has been stolen from you and short of getting your memory selectively edited, there’s nothing you can do. Be weary of the internet, my dears.

It’s OK to not have shit figured out yet

Not a teenager any more? Still single? Don’t own your own home? No hubby, no kids, no nothing? Thanks to fucking Facebook, it couldn’t be easier to check how far your life has gone off-track compared to those you went to school with, but who says that’s the track you have to take? If you’ve chosen to take a different route to happiness, that’s cool too. Dress like a hooker if you want to. Blow your entire paycheque on shoes and sweets. Lose entire days to Netflix, living in a house with only men, where any and all disagreements are settled with plank exercises. It’s OK to be ridiculous. It’s OK that stuff doesn’t make sense yet. It’s OK to have no idea what you’re doing. Yes, there are people who have the next X years of their life figured out, and you don’t even know what you’ll be doing this weekend, but it’s absolutely fine. Life isn’t a race the finish line – if anything it’s the opposite. Don’t be in such a rush to go through the motions, just because you think you’re supposed to. Take it from me, I’ve tried that while playing The Sims and you just get bored and quit. But you can’t just quit life and have another crack at it later. You can’t rush to have kids and then turn cheats on and shift+click to delete them. I’m pretty sure the whole neglecting them so badly a social worker turns up to take them away is reflective of real life, but we at GP do not advocate this. Life is not The Sims, so make your plays wisely.

And finally, the best piece of advice I have been given this year: Don’t become dependant on anyone, for anything

Any finally, the best piece of advice I have been given this year… Upon watching the complete collapse of the relationship of someone we know, someone close to me made me promise that I would never become dependant on anyone for anything: not money, especially not happiness – nothing. You know what? He’s absolutely right. It is constantly being pointed out to me that I will often put all my happiness eggs in one basket, which is all well and good until you don’t have that basket anymore. Maybe you lose that particular basket, maybe you break-up with it… it doesn’t matter what it is, you can’t rely on any one thing or one person to make you happy, lest you be screwed when it’s gone.
The worst thing you can do is put your happiness in the hands of one other person. Yes, you might feel amazing when you have his attention for five minutes, but if you don’t hear from him for five days you will come crashing down. Don’t give anyone that kind of power. Balance your happiness over several things and people, but most of all make sure you can take care of yourself. You are the only person who is always going to be there for you.

About Frankie Genchi

Full-time writer, reformed groupie, geek chic gamer and Henry Cavill enthusiast. Showbiz: www.fleckingrecords.co.uk | Girly: www.girlpanion.co.uk

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