Self-Esteem Saboteurs: The Spineless Art of Seduction

If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, is the way to a woman’s heart through her insecurities? It’s an old fashioned sexist recipe for fat men and unhappy women. Courtship is like language, there are no universal rules: “’I’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’, except in fifteen circumstances that are impossible to predict”. The word “banter”, used to describe flirty repartee, has become a widely accepted measure of compatibility. I’m sure I heard the phrase first used on Geordie Shore, which is always a worry, but I can’t deny it’s on the radar. The ability to have a cheeky conversation and take the mickey out of one another is definitely a desirable trait. But where do you draw the line between banter and verbal battery? Why do I keep hearing put downs instead of pick-up lines?

Though my confidence invariably fluctuates, I do have a fierce ambition to accept myself, warts and all. But the journey to self-acceptance is a tumultuous game of Snakes and Ladders. One week will have you at the top of the board and the next week you’ll slither back down square one at the mercy of a cold blooded reptile.  Some days, mustering enough courage to leave the house without flinching at your own reflection in shop windows is an achievement (note: the serious stare of a window shopping female is usually 30% shopping and 70% checking oneself out in shiny full length surfaces). It’s crushing enough to hear an overweight middle aged woman comment on my cellulite through an open car window and the constant bitch of unhappy females: “I don’t even know why he likes her, she’s not even that pretty” (both true stories… ouch). Not only this, but if you’re a lonely heart looking for love you’ve now also put your self-esteem in the hands the opposite sex who are waiting to hiss at your most noble attempts to feel adequate.

Made popular by some greasy-haired sleaze-ball pick-up artist in the 90s, “negging” is a sickening interaction tool men are encouraged to use to garner success with the opposite sex. Delivering a back-handed compliment is supposed to induce some strong desire for the woman to seek the rude man’s approval. Another example from my personal repository of dickhead encounters: “Why would a pretty girl like you dye her hair that colour?” Such a remark is supposed to render me senseless and desperate for approval. To his dismay I bit back by asking why an old guy felt the need to go to night clubs and insult young girls. It’s disturbing but many argue it works and I’m certain I’ve fallen for it before.

I’ve certainly tried to brush it off and put it down to bad taste in company or poor choice of venue, but recently this relentless bullying has even followed me across state lines and international borders. I could be a magnet for douche bags (I’ve definitely entertained that hypothesis before) however I feel it’s an uncomfortable symptom of a larger gaping global wound in the fabric of romantic interactions. I love to laugh at myself and everyone else, but verbal abuse from romantically inclined strangers is taking it a little too far. On a recent “relaxing” beach holiday I found myself close to full berserker status after meeting seven different males in close succession who after a polite introduction proceeded to insult me with unapologetic candour, waving a matador’s red cape at me in the hope that I come charging straight for them.  Why, how charmed I am to hear that “I’m nice for an Australian” or “funny for a woman”. Indeed, you’re lovely yourself for a spineless, talking reptile from the bottom of a scum filled swamp. As a refugee from poor male etiquette in Australia I was terrible abashed by the false asylum. Are insults the new “come hither?”

I have been made to feel so frustrated by this unrelenting negativity that I’ve taken it upon myself to push back at the subtle insulters and the outright creeps and dish out some offensiveness of my own. Sick of short and defensive conversations with men trying to offend me in order to compliment me, like a 3rd grade boy pulling my hair in a love-induced spasm, I have developed a semi-automatic defensive mechanism. TBH, as much as I love men and their cleverness and charm, as much as I want to stroke their beautiful hair, make them reach things I can’t reach and lift things I can’t lift, I will not play this unholy game.

My instructions are fairly straight forward: if you don’t like a girl don’t talk to them, if you do like a girl try to act like an adult human instead of a horny monkey throwing faeces. I truly feel bad for kind and gentle guys who handle the backlash of fierce and defensive women. These guys are bearing the brunt of the anger when they’ve done nothing wrong and it’s because we’ve already had our daily fill of insults and don’t want to risk anymore. Sorry to the unwitting romantic who tried to compliment me at the next bar: “Wow you so are beautiful!” Yes, beautiful, but just like a poisonous amphibian, if you touch me I’ll probably kill you.

Frankly I’m sick of bang-out-of-line assholes insulting my nationality, occupation, appearance, gender or telling me I’m too cocky, confident, proud or whatever. Excuse me buddy, I cop enough criticism from myself, I do not need your two cents’ worth. If you’re not going to make polite conversation then best to back the f*ck up before you get smacked the f*ck up. I didn’t dislocate my shoulder applying the most optimum and sumptuous layer of fake tan on my back for you to tear me down with your BS comments. “Wow that’s a lovely top you’ve got on honey, but I think you forgot your pants.” Go bury yourself in manure you worm. It’s sad to think that you will probably one day procreate.

I wonder when people deleted the memory of their grandma teaching them “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” You will always catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar, remember that. Women shouldn’t be treated like a country that needs to be destroyed in order to be conquered, we prefer to be treated like human beings. We have enough on our plates dealing with internal battles raging without dealing with after dark guerrilla tactics. Try engaging us as you would in full daylight and sobriety rather than howling like a scare-wolf sending usrunning frantically in the opposite direction.

Negging someone into submission is like stunning a deer with headlights and smashing into it with your car: you can’t claim you’re a hunter. There’s no glory in making a horrible mess of your target by brutalising them into submission. There’s quite a difference between banter and brutality. Why not try good old fashioned humour or intelligence to woo the lady, and in the words of the great and wise Ellen DeGeneres, “Be kind to one another.”

Be an Arcadian on every platform, check out the menu icon in the top right hand corner to subscribe to email notifications &     follow the journey on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Everyone is welcome in Arcadia. Jules x

Navigating Murky Waters: The First Date Dilemma, Dinner or Drinks?

Like setting sail on the high seas, casting off for a first date can be a tumultuous journey into the great unknown. Unfortunately Facebook stalking, your drunken judgement or riotous text message banter are about as reliable as a Melbourne weather forecast for predicting date success. One minute it’s sunny, the next you’re running for cover in the ladies room, sheltering from a cataclysmic storm of clashing morals, offensive narrow-mindedness or not-so-good-looking-in-the-daylight disasters.  Our inner Napoleon wants to believe that we will return the victorious conqueror of unchartered territories but sadly, mid-sail motion sickness often forces us abandon ship as we desperately try to keep our eyes on the horizon.

Alas, the waters are treacherous in a dating pool and filled with pirates, sharks and pollution. It’s no wonder that both men and women deconstruct and analyse first date semantics in order to decode the best first-date scenario. Do you go casual or formal? Who chooses the venue? Do you split the bill? Do you kiss goodbye? How do you escape if he’s a surprise vegan life-coach?

The first date is an honoured tradition and there are certain protocols and traditions that both help and hinder our romances. Typically, dinner or drinks is the standard first offer. This leaves many stressed out at the idea of a full-blown dinner or the possible sleaze associated with catching up for drinks. Whether or not you’re eating, I find that symbolically smashing a bottle of champagne between you may bestow good luck upon your voyage (or at least launch you into smooth sailing small talk).

Where I grew up, meeting someone for a drink was usually code for “I’ll meet you at the bar at 10pm when you’ve already gotten yourself white-girl drunk, buy you two vodka raspberries and try and get in your pants” so forgive my reluctant cringe when you invite me for drinks. Call it a scar from the past (first glimpse of baggage and it’s not even the first date… Check.), but I am not going to respond with “Oh why certainly, I’d love nothing more than to ditch my girlfriends and meet you in a dark bar, half-wasted, knock back a few stiff drinks before you suggest we go somewhere quieter ‘so we can talk’.” If talking was his priority, then his level of effort was as poor as his knowledge of bar-side acoustics. Enchanté, Sailor, but I must bid you adieu as I run off into the night via the nearest 24-hour bakery.

But now that I’m older and living in a bigger city, I find myself invited out for drinks more frequently. It seems to be the convention, but I still struggle to understand the meaning of it. We probably met at a bar so the assumption that I drink is fair, but meeting for a drink on a weeknight is problematic in many ways. Firstly I am a grown woman and I have a job and somewhere to be in the morning, secondly because I expect to drive to the meeting place. The two are compounded by the fact that I’m a small woman who has only had avocado and Kruskits for dinner (since I had to buy my own) and I can’t realistically have more than about 1.5 drinks without abandoning my car and taxiing home, which judging by my budget-friendly dinner is not likely. What a kerfuffle, and all because you don’t want to get stuck at a dinner date with a relationship blogger who will probably tear you to pieces in her next post.

In theory, going out for a drink with someone is a great, low pressure situation where you can have a few drinks, loosen up and get to know someone in an informal setting. I totally understand the functionality of it; it’s just like a coffee date but at night, with alcohol and the chances of getting some action are about 4000% higher. Maybe it reflects how disinterested I am in dating at the moment, but the appeal of risking a D.U.I on a first date, on a Wednesday night (when The Bachelor is on) with a guy that wasn’t confident enough in me to invite me for food isn’t a very strong draw card. Looks like Bachie Woods will be the only one keeping me warm this winter.
I can’t help but feeling that drinks are the runner up prize. It leaves uncertainty as to his intentions:  were you not worth the outlay for actual dinner date? Does he think you’re a two-rum strumpet?  Is he Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love (pre-Emma Stone entrance) with more dates this year than a calendar? Drinks tend to be deployed as a bit of a “cool guy” calling card, showing that they are easy going and confident but it doesn’t do much to reassure the chronically insecure female that whispers bitter cynicisms in the back of our mind.

Dinner seems more comforting because the likelihood they are dining out with a different girl in a different port every night is unlikely. Obviously he’s not a serial dater because taking every girl out for Teppanyaki is just not economically viable. On the other side of the coin, however, when a guy takes us out for a too-fancy-for-a-first-date dinner it can be just as concerning.  The good thing about dinner is that it shows effort, planning and that he trusts his own judgement.  Alternatively it might mean he’s desperate to impress, he has no friends of his own to dine with or he simply wants some nice eye candy to entertain him while he sets sail on a food safari across the city.

So by my calculations you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. No matter how you approach it, first dates are always going to feel like walking the plank into shark infested waters.  Slightly safer options include coffee dates, brunches or delightful strolls in the park but they occupy prime hours of daylight in the weekend. The chances of drunk driving or sleazy pick-ups are much lower, but  you are going to end up in the water either way, so you can choose whether to jump in the deep end or wade through shallower waters. Some days, dating feels like throwing yourself in an ocean of awkwardness and confusion, and wondering how can you opt out (Text “STOP” to 13 13 11, throw your phone in the ocean, quit your job and go be a pirate).

Yes m’hearties, this is what goes through our heads. Happy sailing.

Is food the enemy or am I?

As many (or all) women will understand, I have been obsessed with food since a young age. In our early years we will accept anything that comes flying toward our mouths masquerading as an aeroplane; but as we grow older we become wise to the superior tastes of trans-fats, sugar and salt. For many of us the obsession with food can be traced back to our pubescent metamorphoses, when we developed unexpected womanly curves and began to panic and freak out. Overcome by the changes in our bodies, many of us have been on a rollercoaster ever since, trying to sculpt and squeeze ourselves into some unobtainable figure. Enter yo-yo diets, idiotic detoxes, low-carb, no-carb, vegan, sugar free and low fat revolutions, all inevitably ending in hunger and frustration.  #cleaneating #thighgap #doesmybuttlookbiginthis? #howthinistoothin? #fitspo #greenjuice #fuckitigiveup #wherestheicream

This brings to mind a very relatable meme I’ve encountered on social media… It goes something like this:

 “Every girl’s dream is to find Prince charming…FALSE

Every girl’s dream is to eat whatever they want without getting fat.”

I thought it was pretty hilarious, mainly because it was a brutally accurate summation of my relationship with food. As you may have noticed the message around food and body image is very conflicted these days. There is a strong social obligation to consume copious amounts of indulgent food at every occasion, which is at odds with society’s not so subtle emphasis on the ideal female form. This sees many of us scoffing party pies at the work morning tea and then crying into our salads about it by lunch time. These pressures have us all darting chaotically from hedonic indulgences to supreme guilt and self-loathing. Torn between the compulsion to consume the wondrous smorgasbord of lard and carbs on offer, and our aching desire to become a Victoria’s Secret model (because that’s realistic).

So where does this leave us? Crying into our Ben and Jerry’s, or obsessively searching for the most nutritionally effective juicer on eBay? Mainly we are left dazed, confused and overwhelmed by the barrage of ‘guilty’ and ‘guilt-free’ options out there. We have taken to bartering with ourselves like we are children: “Yes Jules, if you go to the gym five times this week you can drink that whole bottle of champagne on the weekend (as long as you ONLY have a salad for dinner beforehand)”… What I don’t account for is the actions of ‘Drunk Jules’, my intoxicated alter-ego, who finds it liberating to eat copious amounts of McDonlads in order to equalise my hard earned calorie deficit. Thus, leaving me fretting for weeks about the outcome of that 3 a.m. large McChicken meal plus nuggets (well at least she ordered a Diet Coke, right?). Well played Drunk Jules, well played.

So evidently this deprivation game is enough to drive me crazy, into a state of depraved drunken shenanigans. So what should I do? If I put on my sensible hat for a minute and recall past experiences I realise, that the less I deprive myself and the more focus I give towards eating nutritionally dense meals the happier I am. So maybe, rather than adopting my default setting of “Eating as much as I can without getting fat” I need to be a little more consistent in “Eating great foods that make me feel great”. Strangely enough the junk cravings tend to subside (…Froyo is healthy right?) and ‘Drunk Jules’ is a lot better behaved. So what I’m trying to say is that maybe if we spent a little less time beating ourselves up and practiced a little more self-love maybe we could moderate the food obsession.  And perhaps with a bit of practice we could beat off those dreaded love-handles and still enjoy a cheeky cheeseburger every once in a while without suffering post-burger depression.