Brave the Shave – Not in my name

I caught MacMillan Cancer’s ‘Brave the shave’ advert on television this morning, which I previously posted about. How is this campaign still going and winning awards? Oh yes, it brings them in millions of £. I cannot believe they still do grasp how insensitive this is. Not only does it trivialise hair loss, which has been a source of many tears and self loathing for over twenty five years for me.

Loosing our hair is very different to shaving, unless you experience it for yourself, you cannot grasp the emotional and mental changes that go with hair loss. Would we ask people to paint bruises on their body to empathise with victims of domestic abuse, neglecting the emotional and mental abuse that can accompany it? It is distasteful.

The advert has people looking in mirrors desperate to see how they look now, with hair loss mirrors become something to hide from as scared of the image they now show. Shaving hair is not empathetic, I mean why would you choose to look this way? Hair loss isn’t all in one go either, it can be a slow process of waking up to hairs on the pillow, which are only matched by our tears, until it is gone. It is heartbreaking.

This plays up to the narcissistic, attention-grabbing, selfie generation that want to show they are doing good things for charity, but it is really all about them – lapping up all the whoops and grins from others. As they spend the follow period showing us how their hair is regrowing, never sparing a thought for us that it will never grow back, and forgetting the cause as they do too.

Go on bra walks, run marathons, or make cakes, but please think before you pick up that shaver in someone’s name.

© Fi S. J. Brown

I ‘nose’ depression

Please forgive the apparent typo in the title of this blog, but the nose is on purpose as relates to the topic.

Earlier today I was on Twitter when I saw this video from British television program This Morning, which is an interview with a lady called Carla Bellucci who ‘faked depression to get a £7000 nose job on the National Health Service‘. I could not believe anyone, apart from an actress, could sit on national television spouting the rubbish that falls from her mouth: ‘before I knew it, I had an appointment to see a surgeon within four weeks‘.

Not only does this beg the question why a GP referred her and that feeling down could be fixed with a nose job. As well as why the National Health Service (NHS) surgeon agreed it would pay for the operation. The situation makes a mockery of mental health, particularly depression, to be something trivial and laughable, when it can be both severe and enduring. Never mind the fact it can take over a year to see a psychologist for therapy, as the health service is on its knees as so overstretched on little money.

As someone who has battled body dysmorphia I know that seeing your body as how it is not is hard; this needs therapy not surgery. Sadly for many this seems to be seen as the route to fix what they see as wrong with their bodies. However, one operation can become ten as start finding faults that do not exist as become addicted. Little or no help is offered by surgeons, only interested in making money, and may not understand it could be part of something deeper that a knife cannot fix. People wait years for operations that need them to alleviate pain, for which there is no quick fix.

As Carla is now openly talking about this, thus making money from appearing on television programs such shows as This Morning, will her £7000 be paid back with a small donation to mental health donations? Will there be in repercussions for her lie? I very much doubt it, or if there is it will not be genuine as now so well known. Will it open the flood gates of others to falsely claim mental health to jump queues? She says she was ‘advised’ to lie, who by? If by her GP, then they also need to be investigated. She should have been assessed for the depression, maybe medication, and referred to a qualified professional in mental health.

Carla has got her fifteen seconds of fame, which I feel this was all about. In days past I would have called it a set up by so called PR guru Max Clifford. Carla is there to antagonise us all. However, more fool her as the stigma is dropping and we no longer mock or laugh at mental health conditions; those that do belong in Victorian times not the 21st century. She is an attention seeker that is best off not giving her a further voice, I hope further media outlets decide not to have her on their programs or websites. The last thing we need is another Samantha Brick or Katie Hopkins, which I feel is what she wants to become. I can only be grateful that the television show Big Brother has been axed, as could see her like Ms Brick before her appearing on the celebrity version!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Love is a mystery

Now and again I find curiosity gets the better of me and tune into television programs just to try understand being human and how others see life differently to me. This includes ones like ‘First Dates’ that set up people and film them have their first date together in a restaurant, which of course is heavily edited like any reality television program. The program makers decide how they are going to edit someone to be like to the narrative of what unfolded. As someone that love is very much that mystery I have all but left out of my life so far it is interesting to me what the participants are looking for and what love means to them. From ‘friend zone’ to ‘baggage’ it often leaves me more bewildered than anything on the ways they often justify reasons for saying ‘no’ or to why they are single and thus decided to do the show in the first place.

The concept of ‘friend zone’ stems from the 1990s television series according to the Oxford English Dictionary but seems to be very 21st century to meet someone and decide they’ll only ever be a friend so immediately that’s any chance of anything more developing as someone learns more about a person over time to be zero. I guess it may feed into this instant gratification we now seem to have as often see on First Dates some say ‘there was no instant spark’…which to me is silly as they’re in an artificial environment and unless there was good reason to avoid that person in future then why not see how that person is away from the camera? Equally, a ‘spark’ can develop over time as the other person’s little quirks make us smile and see that person as someone we like to be in the company of. How many relationships in the past started from a friendship that grew into something more? It is almost stunting something with a full stop before it could be a beautiful friendship that means far more than something romantic too.

Although I am openly asexual to my friends (“An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. This does not necessarily mean that they do not experience sexual arousal, or romantic or aesthetic attraction, or that they do not want intimacy from their relationships.”) it is sometimes left unsaid on why I am single. Equally, it is always someone’s personality for me that makes them attractive or not, although I have had horrific vibes off people that I have learnt meant to run and keep running from them too. I do not care about someone’s gender when it comes to love as I have had rarely had feelings for anyone (male, female or however someone wants to define their gender); of the people I have kissed two have been male and one is female. Who that person is as a package not the shell around their body is what speaks to me. As a teenager I questioned my sexuality as had no idea who I found sexy but did find any sexual talk a trigger as made me upset and uneasy, which it still remains to this day due to unresolved issues.

That last point brings me onto ‘baggage’ that any human being that has ever lived has got. Yes some of us seem to experience more things in life than others but does not mean we should be determined by it. First Dates seems to love its sob stories and tragic events or stories from its participants. It takes a lot to learn to love ones self as I have learnt and know it would take a lot for me to love another as to me that is absolutely terrifying at beginning to imagine it. I know to some my personal ‘baggage’ may seem a lot but by sharing the weight becomes lighter as it also does with the passing of time, something that the only person I sort of dated did not grasp. Nobody gets to the age I am at now without a few scars but equally they should not be defined by their past as makes them the person they are today and what happens today will influence the future. Baggage sounds like we have several suitcases we bring from relationship to relationship, but equally they can contain amazing experiences and things we have done. However, they also show to me how we should deal with things properly and not bottle them up so become dragged down by them.

My love of music and musicality is no secret but have rarely understood why we write so many songs about love when there are so many other human emotions. One album I am enjoying right now is exploring many themes from awakeness to not giving up on life so meaning a lot to me beyond the fact the singer/songwriter is a special friend. For me I feel romantic love is a mystery meant for others and not for me. If I am honest if someone said they fancied me or loved me in a romantic way I would be sure it was a joke and/or a bet such is my cynical view. Love comes in many forms and we should be embarrassing that not giving friend zones at the drop of a hat as the love of a good friend should not be ignored but treasured as far as I am concerned beyond that of romantic. I do not believe in fairy tale love but would like someone to challenge my suitcases and me to see beyond the love I have learnt through friends that I did not think was even possible. So don’t give up as you’re single, enjoy it and who cares…the spinster cat starter kit is only a phone call away from your local animal shelter!

© Fi S. J. Brown

First Dates

I am not a lover of reality television, but decided to try watch a dating one called ‘First Dates’ as one of the participants like me has alopecia and was interested how the woman would be shown to their audience as well as how it impacted upon her and her life.

The lady in question was called Eve, much younger than me and a beauty therapist from Wales. I felt her tears as she told her story and felt proud of her for telling it in such a public way. She approached the topic with her date early on, which if had been me this would be not a topic for a first date even if for TV and led to her removing her wig. I have to say she looked so much happier and confident without it, the style and jet black didn’t suit her at all. She had a tattoo on her scalp with a few patches of hair (I have neither) but seemed to fit her personality as shown on the screen. The confidence she gave out was incredible and her date was lovely about it all; in the end he was too nice for her (why do some women do that I have no idea). The media and people on social media I have seen have been very supportive and positive generally, which has made me cry a bit.

I have been wearing a wig for over twenty five years now and could never have done this so fair play to Eve. However, it has gone from seeing me naked if saw me without it to just part of what makes me who I am; only last night my best friend and I were discussing what colour and style I should try next time, which I could never have done a few years back as felt shamed that my body killed its own hair cells like they were a disease. Every time the wind blows heavily I worry it will blow away, which can lead to panic attacks and why I always have a scarf on me, but it fits my personality anyway. Being bullied for my hair loss and wearing a wig in my teens are still massive scars for me, which I don’t know if time will fully ever heal. I maybe able to take selfies and share some on social media but that took therapy and a huge effort to get there, going from an ogre to a rag doll, to rewire my brain that I am not ugly or a freak to the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and Hunchback of Notre Dame. One day I would love to do a charity walk without mine but for now I will plough on finding new confidence daily. This free spirit is learning to fly, the phoenix I will forever be, who needs hair anyway…not me!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Real life

As popular reality TV shows return for their autumn runs in the UK few stop to think of the contestants that in many ways are like actors in a play. Winners already decided to scripted arguments, edited video footage to manipulative judges comments, all make us invest emotionally in the contestants and vote in a certain way. Thus the contestants are presented in neat little packages, which are often far from how the truly are around friends and family.

However, it is not just confined to TV shows, for it is something nearly all of us are guilty of. Take a look at your Facebook profile, if have one, and see the image of yourselves that you promote to the outside world. We share our lives like the diary room on the show “Big Brother“, editing our photos to elicit a certain response, trying to look slimmer and younger than we are, to the portray of how life is and the person we want to be seen as by others.

Learning to be comfortable in who we are can be very difficult. Combined with the media and entertainment telling us we need to do x or y to become rich and successful or this is what true beauty looks like via a heavily edited photograph. Those that differ are seen as abnormal or freaks as their individuality is erased at a click of a mouse. Therefore, nowhere do we see examples of ordinary individuals as almost want to conform to these ideas.

Is it not time we stopped watching and listening? Gave ourselves a break for not being how the world paints what human beings are to be. Not everyone will have a partner and/or children, a fulfilling career does not mean one that brings lots of money and owning houses to cars are extras that should not be forced as must haves; what is wrong with renting a home or use public transport, owning a car may seem convenient but costs so much to run.

However, by all means continue watching television and posting to social media if you wish, but perhaps tuning out from or switching them off them now and again so can appreciate what we have without needing to share it, the little things that are special to each of us. Spending quality time with friends and family as life is precious and short, which is why the present is the only time that actually exists; based on foundations of the past and start of tomorrow.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Remembering and never forgetting

Today marks 100 years since the start of one war that humanity will never forget. I shut my eyes to try to imagine what these people did in the name of freedom for their countries: I immediately become deafened by the gunfire, falling over the lifeless bodies of sacrifice to an almost undeserving god, a loss of innocence on all sides, and memories no one that survived the battles would ever forget as scarred in their minds forever. A century on, the red rain continues to pour in every corner of the world. There is no way to shelter from it for once it starts, as is like monsoon season. Tears fall in fear, empathy, and sadness from all over the world as we do not know how to help. Sadly, many do not want to know now as too depressing, preferring their scripted soap operas or reality TV, which are exaggerations of every day life and an escapism from the real world.

Twenty years ago I wondered after the first Gulf War and the breakdown of Yugoslavia if there would ever be peace in my lifetime. Instinctively I knew there would not be as saw people bully me for the silliest of things day in and out, multiplying that up at a country level I sensed only more pain to come. Today I am not a dreamer, I am a realist, accepting what I could sense then. I cannot dream of a peaceful world when I see people everyday not accepting difference in another from gender, race, religion, sexuality and ability. Is it human nature to do so or do we let an arbitrary box dictate how to treat another person? As children we accept someone for who they are, maybe this is another thing we need to learn from them to keep us grounded in what matters.

© Fi S. J. Brown

21st Century Life – Is modern life rubbish?

From the videos of current popstars and actors to the celebrities who’s ‘fame’ is from who they are in relationship with to being on a talent show are shown in the media as rich, attractive, false, shallow, and sexual. Where are the healthy role models, those who express, love, understanding, compassion, charity, health, spirituality and more of what has real value in life? The people I grew up to admire were those that had achieved something in life from Emmeline Pankhurst leading women to fight for the right to vote to Anita Roddick highlighting animal testing in the cosmetic industry and Jane Goodall for her work with chimps. Equally as a music nut, I did not fancy the musicians I listened to, despite being bullied for not knowing which of Take That I fancied. For it was their talent that I admired from John Bonham on drums, Gary Moore on guitar, John Deacon on bass, and Freddie Mercury for his vocal showmanship. This still stands today.

If we ‘hate’ something, it is said the best way to deal with it is to ignore it as nobody forces us with an imaginary gun or got us trapped in a cage torturing us to look or watch. When the real reality of escaping from the modern world’s media is far harder as social media has meant we can see the impact upon our “friends” and their opinions like never before. For me the media has become like an imaginary prison, which we cannot see the bars of our cell. In particular music, movies and TV program us to accept certain ideologies as normal as we see and hear them all the time. I look to my grandparents’ generation, for example when they married it was for love and companionship, working out their problems, now we are amazed if a couple manage to stay together while their children complete secondary education. Have relationships like everything else become so disposable with a use by date now?

Sexuality has increased in my lifetime in the media. I remember “Girls on film” by Duran Duran caused such a stir in the 1980s and now we have people blaming Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga for the downfall of morality! All three’s record labels and management have used the adage “sex sells”. What may have passed for an X rated soft porn film thirty years ago is now to be found almost acceptable in mainstream popular music video or movie at the cinema. Music videos like Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s “Telephone” or Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” are designed to get people watching them in their millions and discussing them not just in the street but on social media too. Makes me wonder where will the makers or puppeteer go next with their “visual art” and what are hidden in messages within them as per Katy Perry’s latest.

Finally, we have become dependent on technology from our portable phones to our computers, it seems impossible for some to leave their phone alone for as little as ten minutes. UNICEF is currently trying to encourage people to do just that. Considering I can leave mine in a different part of the house from where I am working or in my bag when outwith, I find it amazing that one friend said she only lasted five minutes without touching her phone. I was once told that technologically we did not progress from the end of the Roman Empire to the start of the Industrial Revolution, which in itself I feel belittles the achievements of people we will never hear about both before and during this time period. Equally, technology I was told as a child was 40-50 years ahead of what is made public, which I can certainly believe is true if not even greater.

So are we now living in a wondrous age as have access to all this technology? For me, no, I much prefer a good chat with someone – in person or on the telephone, or even a good old letter rather than email. Call me old fashioned but I much prefer the feel of a book over a Kindle, the tactileness to the information inside I feel I understand better as focus more than on a computer or tablet screen. We have access to almost any information we could ever dream of, as well as some made up nonsense and disinformation for good measure. Yet many take what they read on certain sites as proven fact, when many things are theories or as good as Chinese whispers. Is life in the 21st century rubbish, I would say more depressing than rubbish, as we have almost stopped achieving and creating new things that matter to humanity? I look at beautiful art and architecture from hundreds to thousands of years old wondering to myself could this or that be made today, often saying ‘no’ as we have become focused on other things, which do not matter like TV soap operas to how overpaid football players are,. Perhaps if we switched off the TV and computer, left our mobile phones at home, and let’s spend time with those we care about and/or creating from just our imagination, rather than focus on the doom and gloom that is encroaching ever closer, before it’s too late.

© Fi S. J. Brown