Harry vs Voldemort and the Art of Waiting

For someone who loathes Valentine’s and all it represents, I have been making an awful lot of Valentine’s-related stationery lately. Buy now to make your friends laugh! Buy now for an alternative Valentine’s gift! Buy now so I don’t have to get another job!

I have spent the last week or so trying to focus on my work in that self-help book kind of way. You know: focus on a task until it’s done, prioritise your goals, live in the moment. Finish those Valentine’s designsTurns out talking to you fuckers hasn’t been a priority. Generally, it works. I can sleep at night knowing I gave my best performance. Except I actually sleep at night beneath three blankets and the weight of no discernible progress, so there’s a chapter missing in those books. ‘What to Do When You’ve Started Implementing Your Plans But the Stats Aren’t In Yet’. I have found that binge reading the work of Maggie Stiefvater helps. So does listening to MCR songs you’d forgotten you’d forgotten.

One of my new year’s intentions was to chill the fuck out, so let’s all be patient, remember that we are only three weeks into 2016 and keep in mind that life could be worse – we could be that bloke they based The Revenant on.

And yet.

Catching up with Blogging 101 tasks, I’m having a bash at writing to a prompt, and one of the Waiting Room ones was ‘“Good things come to those who wait.” Do you agree? How long is it reasonable to wait for something you really want?’ As a freelancer I am my own boss, with absolutely no Monthly Targets or Quarterly Team Goals or Bullshit Exercises To Stop Employees Quitting. One of the reasons I didn’t want to work in an office was the likelihood of Bullshit Exercises – they make me feel the same way as grey suit trousers and nude lipstick does. I have goals with my marketing clients, of course: ‘make them money’, usually narrowed down into ‘build Instagram’, then trimmed to ‘write five snappy posts’, then ‘turn on the computer to write five snappy posts’, then ‘get out of bed because the computer is downstairs’. At the end of all that, the client should have visibility and therefore money, and I should continue my tenure as the Instagram person, and I should therefore have money.

All because I got out of bed, and without a grey trouser suit in sight.

Sometimes Instagram does not build quickly. Sometimes my posts are not good. Sometimes people are tight and refuse to part with their cash despite enjoying a pretty and well-tagged Instagram picture twice a day. These people are dicks.

Back to waiting for good things: with the exception of new Stiefvater novels, I am not content to simply wait. I must be doing something to, at the very least, pass the time. Ideally I must be implementing a scheme to make the good thing happen so that it happens more quickly, more efficiently, and with less time to moan about waiting. It might still take five years, but if I hadn’t made an effort then it might have taken ten. It might not have been as good. Here is a list of good things that came with waiting:

  • I left school (I waited 13 fucking years)
  • The conclusion to Harry vs Voldemort (six years)
  • Danger Days plus Conventional Weapons (four years)

I did very little to hurry those along except exist and bide my time. Probably could have entertained myself more in retrospect. Here is a list of good things in my life that came because I made them happen:

  • I can write without a wrist brace (three years, physio, sheer force of will)
  • A large portion of my hair is pink (a few months, some savings)
  • Doors on my cupboards (a week, a screwdriver, lack of patience to wait for someone else with a screwdriver to do it, especially when that someone is a man)

Here is a list of good things I will also get if I a) wait and b) find a screwdriver:

  • A healthy return on my investment of Valentine’s designs
  • The ability to type on a regular keyboard with a regular mouse, without my fingers and wrists turning numb
  • Money to travel more and move out of my mother’s house and eat well without selling a kidney on the Internet, engaging in prostitution and/or getting that other job.

The question is, how long am I willing to wait. 10 years? Six months? Until my pink hair has grown out? It could take me longer to leave home than it has for Richard Gansey III to find the dead Welsh dude, and I don’t have a Camaro or Blue Sargent to soothe my frustration.*

So, if you are in a commenting mood, let me know: how long is it reasonable to wait for something you want? How long have you waited in the past for something? Are you still waiting? Let’s wait together.

*That is not a spoiler.

Saving Face: Beauty is in the Eye of the Purse Holder

The second part of this series was a bit longer than I’d planned (I also didn’t originally plan a series!) so I’m going to keep the next two posts short and sweet… or bitter, depending on your viewpoint. My second question in that first post was about why skincare products are so expensive, and it turns out they don’t have to be, but first of all let’s address the elephant in the pharmacy.

Women have an expense that is considered to be optional and isn’t: we have to use feminine hygiene products (which for some reason are considered a luxury and taxed) so we will pay for them. I had a daydream about what would happen if all woman said ‘I can’t afford them, I’ll go without my tampons/painkillers/chocolate this month’ and the carnage resembled Godzilla. Let’s face it, if menstruating women refused to turn up for work, the economy would break. If we all rioted, every country’s infrastructure would come to a complete standstill. Part of me wants to see it happen.

So we’re already being overcharged for products we can’t not buy. Moving on to the international beauty industry! It’s raking in the cash and expanding all the time: Unilever, which owns Treseme, Lynx, Simple and Dove to name but a few, is a FTSE 100 company. L’Oreal and Estee Lauder are ‘increasing focus’ on the Indian market. In China, the cosmetics industry is estimated by the Economist to be worth $26 billion per year, and growing, although Revlon is halting business there… possibly because despite China’s enormous market, Chinese law requires all products to be tested on animals, which can put Western customers off (I don’t think Revlon is catering to the needs of the baby rabbits who shouldn’t wear mascara… more like their bank balances). Getting back to the unnecessary expense of products, there is another proverbial sexist elephant:

Apparently women in the States pay $1300 per year more for cosmetics than men, even though they are paid a lot less. It’s daylight robbery, innit, especially if you use products a lot.

Thankfully there are ways to beat the fuckers at their own game and save cash without forgoing your own beauty standards. For starters, since the Internet, people have been able to share their expertise and money-saving tips a lot more easily. The Beauty Truth is a blog that tests products and reviews them in a way that normal people can actually understand. (They also pointed out – and blew my mind in the process – that pump-action bottles last longer than the standard ones because you can’t empty the bottle’s entire contents in one go.) A More BeYOUTtiful You is another site which shares beauty tips but doesn’t make me feel like I’m being talked down to by a snob. Plus there are also little ways to save when you’re actually out shopping, and they’re stupidly obvious once you learn them – like buying men’s razors instead of pink ones, or substituting shop-bought products for homemade ones. I’ll talk more about that in the next post…

In the mean time, if any of you discover a way to cut down the price of tampons, let me know. We can save (and probably take over) the world together.

** Update, 06/02/15 ** There’s a UK petition to ask the government to exempt tampons from tax, so if you’re UK-based and you’d like to make George Osborne uncomfortable while attempting to instigate governmental change, go here.

Colour Codes

I think I might have been insulting people for ages. I mean, I know I’ve been insulting people for ages, but it turns out I might have been accidentally insulting people who I actually wish to do the opposite of insult.

That’s getting tautological so I’ll get on with it: yesterday Benedict Cumberbatch (I’d forgotten how hard his name is to type quickly) apologised because he accidentally used the term ‘coloured’ instead of ‘black’. I did a quick Internet search, aka poked about on Twitter and Tumblr, and there was surprisingly (refreshingly) little bullshit about… or maybe I didn’t look hard enough, haha.

My point is, I was under the impression that it’s completely okay to use the term ‘people of colour’ to describe non-white people? I mean, it’s pretty standard usage on Tumblr, and if anywhere is going to eat you alive for using the wrong terminology, it’s those snowflakes. Where I come from people say ‘black’ and ‘coloured’ interchangeably, and not usually in a racist way (if you want to insult someone’s race, there’s a way more varied list). Apparently Martin Luther King used the term ‘citizens of colour’, and if we should follow anyone’s example my gut feeling is that MLK is a good dude for the job. So should Benedict have said ‘actors of colour’ instead of ‘coloured actors’? Or ‘black actors’? What if he meant anyone who isn’t white but isn’t necessarily black? Should anyone care when he was actually making the point that the acting industry isn’t as diverse in the UK as it is in Hollywood?

Have I just insulted more people in my ignorance?

Help.

Mid-Blog Crisis?

I feel like I’ve got a conundrum on my hands, and it’s not whether or not I should eat even more haggis today than I did yesterday (while I’m thinking about it, happy Burns Night day! One of these years I will actually get past the food and read some poetry).

The conundrum is that, for the past few months, I’ve been s l o w l y balancing my freelancer books so I’m making more than I’m spending. I don’t spend a lot, mostly because I don’t have a lot to spend, but Etsy bills and material costs stack up alongside the writing and shop sales so I am Scrooge reluctant to part with any cash unnecessarily. I especially won’t bother renewing Etsy items that haven’t sold or are likely to sell, because I might as well concentrate on making and marketing the pieces that are likely to make me a millionaire… which they all will, obviously, since I don’t make anything that isn’t mass market.

Bullshit Brigade Watermarked

One thing I’d really love to keep up there is the Little Book of Indifferent Ignorance, because I love having merchandise for the site that’s available to buy, instead of sketches of what I’d make if I had £100s to invest. Thing is, not a single person has bought the book (or, as far as I know, read it) so my sharp shopkeeper’s instinct is telling me to take it down. I’ve advertised shop-wide sales, I’ve lowered the price, I’ve put an incredibly obnoxious ad on the sidebar here, and zilch. But the sentimental part of me is, well, being sentimental.

I am also feeling guilty for being ungrateful, since I don’t write here for the money, or the outside confirmation that I have an audience.

Unless I am writing for outside confirmation that I have an audience (or worse, for money) in which case this goes deeper than an Etsy download and means I need to reassess my priorities.

Crap.

Should have just discussed Burns Night.

Saving Face: Girls Girls Girls (and everyone else)

The first question I asked last week when I started the Saving Face project was about gender inequality in the skin care industry. Things might be a bit different for children and preteens now, but here is a brief summary of how I understood things in primary school:

Girls wore products and makeup as a rite of passage in our teens even if it pissed off our conservative parents and even if we were much more interested in spending time and money on things we actually gave a shit about. If we didn’t, we were tomboys and/or lesbians. If we wore a lot of visible products when we were young, we were slappers. Boys shouldn’t wear make up because it’s effeminate, so if they did they were gay. They should, however, take pride in their masculinity and buy products to look like a proper dude.

Aside: did anyone else have the playground rumour that boys having a pierced ear on a certain side made them gay?

Thank God for rock ‘n’ roll… and exposure to the Internet. Men can use products. Women don’t have to. The gender binary is actually a spectrum, and cosmetics shouldn’t be gender-specific because a man will not morph into his wife if he borrows her face cream, and a straight woman will not turn gay if she starts using men’s razors (she will, however, save a lot of money. More on that in the next post).

I’m less inclined to buy into early-2000s school gate ignorance now, but my biggest issue with cosmetics has lasted for years, and I’m not sure if it’s a gender equality issue or just me. Remember when Ellen and Isobel gave me a makeover? It was a lot of fun, but I resented hints that I should always straighten my hair, or wear make up more regularly. The way compliments about how I look get phrased always seems to be “you look great with that make up/hairstyle/clothes on, you should wear it all the time!” Wait, so I don’t already look great? I’m way too stubborn to cave into those implications (especially when it’s from friends and family who are paying me compliments that I might just be incapable of receiving) but pressure from friends and family can have a detrimental effect. Maybe it’s not just me, because someone’s even made a video about it:

This post was nearly done, but then I went on the ‘natural hair’ Tumblr tag and found this (along with some brilliant examples of afro hair):

BLACK shesgotsomuchsoul.tumblr.com

It made me sad, because it’s true. We are all taught to be dissatisfied with what we have so we’ll pay to change it. Women seem to be targeted more, and at risk of sounding like a disenchanted radical, I reckon it harks back to that pesky opinion that men are naturally perfect and women naturally inferior. But it’s evolved into a race inequality issue, because the companies selling products need to make us all feel as though there is something wrong with our natural aesthetic, so we’ll be willing to pay for something new. We’re made to want what everyone else has while despising what we have.

The funniest part is, we can dye our hair or wear a product to express ourselves, to tell a story, to make us feel more confident. If you’ve got acne that you dislike or hair somewhere that makes you shy or insecure, you can buy concealer or get hair removal. But what they don’t tell us is that you should do it because you want to look good for you. Not for a boyfriend who wants you to shave your bikini line, not because an advert has implied you’ve got the wrong hair type or skin colour, not because friends of family have hinted they prefer one ‘look’ over another. The writers over at Rookie are doing an amazing job of explaining and demonstrating that cosmetics are a brilliant way to help you be yourself, but that attitude seems pretty limited to the Internet.

I feel like I’ve asked more questions than I’ve answered. Why aren’t all women of all races, or backgrounds, or hair types or whatever, telling the media and social opinion to go fuck itself and concentrating on complimenting each other’s natural look?  Am I overreacting to people’s compliments when I do my hair differently? Are men targeted by the cosmetic industries as much as women? I can only speak from experience as a cisgender girl (told you I read up on the spectrum!). I kind of feel like companies use consumers’ ignorance (and maybe indifference, actually) to sell products we don’t need, and it’s fueling social inequality.

Spllchkr Gltch

I just started this blog in almost exactly the same way that I started the last one, even though I remembered writing the last one. Same phrases and everything… I have got to read more.

Today has been busy – I’ve been printing and sorting my first physical sale of 2015, which is very exciting and reminded me how much I like organising stock… which I now realise is not exciting to most of you.

Do you think my computer’s incorrect spellchecker counts as a case of indifferent ignorance? It’s driving me bonkers – apparently this post alone I misspelled organising, realise and misspelled.

Wait, I actually misspelled misspelled.

Speaking of Etsy, I’ve been meaning to remind you guys that The Little Book of Indifferent Ignorance is still available to download, but unless someone buys a copy before 2nd February, it expires. (Etsy is sneaky that way. On the plus side, bad products don’t take too long to disappear from my memory.) I am 99.9% sure I didn’t misspell anything in the book – the 0.01% of uncertainty stems from me not having read it in a while, as well as far too much exposure to product branding.

I’d better cut this post short since I have to go and look at some furniture soon. I suppose I could save it and add something wonderful later, but Broadchurch is on…

Forgetting Weekends…

It’s been a strange few days… I drafted most of a post about everything going on with Charlie Hebdo, but I felt like I was going round in angry, bitter circles with very little productive or useful content, so it’ll stay a draft for now.

Let’s just keep on doing what we do, yeah?

My research for the Saving Face topics is well underway, and I’m also working on new stories, which makes me feel superduper productive.

From chrisprattings.tumblr.com
From chrisprattings.tumblr.com

In fact, last Saturday I forgot it was Saturday and tried to get up to work as normal. I couldn’t work out why the dogs were snoozing. I felt like I was in the groove, work ethic wise.

Also from chrisprattings.tumblr.com
Also from chrisprattings.tumblr.com. Someone’s a fan.

It’s almost a week later and I still am even though it’s January and traditionally I should be completely miserable and drowning in a winter cold. I probably will end up with some sort of lurgie, actually, but for now I’m smug and that’s what’s important. Plus, since seeing that film Unbroken on new year’s day (should that be capitalised?) I don’t feel like I can complain about a self-imposed work load.

I mean, have you guys seen Unbroken? It was like watching Die Hard or Rocky or any other macho action movie except for two important differences: a) there were no swooning maidens to sleep with the hero in a hotel part way through and b) the reason there were no swooning maidens was that the film was 100% true. All of it.

Every scene.

Well, maybe every scene, but there were no plot embellishments for dramatic effect. I don’t even want to tell you what happens, because I want you to see it and think “holy shit how did this guy live to be 97?” But he did.

So it’s not a big deal to forget it’s Saturday.

If any of you have any contributions to the Saving Face project, let me know!

Saving Face?

6th January feels like a good time to get back into the serious business of Indifferent Ignorance, and do some research into indifferent ignorance. Specifically something that, now I think about it, I should have looked into years ago.

Skin care.

But Francesca, you’re so hardcore and naturally beautiful, I thought you just got out of bed and looked like a goddess.

That’s partially true, darlings. But I live in a busy town and I don’t have the luxury of inactivity, so my face gets kind of gross from being out and about. Plus I’m a teenage girl, so there’s a rule in my DNA that says that I have to get the occasional blemish… usually in the middle of my forehead.

My routine involves massaging my face with exactly one fresh lily twice daily, obviously. From tfosuccess.com.
My routine involves massaging my face with exactly one fresh lily twice daily, obviously. From tfosuccess.com.

To cut a long story short (it involves my mum bribing me with the promise of an MCR hoodie if I started a face-washing practise), I cleanse tone and moisturise twice a day most days and have since I was about 12. It’s great, because then my face smells like Simple instead of, say, dog spit and sweat. But I’ve always had a bit of an issue with cosmetics… or several issues.

  1. Why do women use creams and serums and oils and magic fairy dust on their faces every day to look acceptable, but men usually don’t do anything except (maybe) shave?
  2. Why do skin care products – cleaning ones, not make up ones, that’s a rant for another day – usually cost more than minimum wage?
  3. Am I putting loads of shit on my skin unnecessarily given that until the last couple of centuries, nobody really even washed?

Granted, those questions don’t keep me up at night, but I think it’s high time I set about answering them… with your help, of course. I have a pretty good answer to number one in my head, but in a bid to be eloquent I’m not going to just type ‘MEN ARE PIGS’. I’ve also got a hunch about the second question, but I don’t want to say ‘because the cosmetics industry is really fucking lucrative’ without at least one piece of evidence. The third question might actually require some proper research, so I’m going to leave this post now and start Googling.

I will let you guys know what I find in the next week or so, but in the mean time please please share your thoughts and anecdotes about forays into skin care. Did you ever put toothpaste on spots? Borrow your dad’s shaving cream for your face aged seven? Ever been press ganged into buying a certain product or pressured into a ‘beauty’ routine?

I have a good story about Nivea, which essentially involves me using their ‘kind to skin’ face cream and having said skin crack and peel like a dodgy case of sunburn.

Now I think about it, that’s the story.