Expectations of the Perfect Partner

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Our students participated in an interesting set of workshops today. They were all off their usual timetable, instead discussing issues surrounding physical, emotional, social and sexual health. I spent most of the day supervising the sexual health workshops, which were predominantly focused on personal relationships and the expectations that each individual has of them.

The facilitator set the kids a really interesting activity. They were asked to draw out a shape in the form of a gingerbread man on a large piece of paper, with the title, ‘The Perfect Partner.’ Around the outside, they had to write the physical attributes that they would like, and on the inside, personality traits.

By the end of the third workshop, I had developed so many ideas in my head that I did the activity myself.

This was what I came up with:

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I’m in a long-term, happy relationship with a wonderful bloke, but being Little Miss Cynical I found myself thinking that the activity was perhaps setting false expectations for the students – surely there is no such thing as the perfect partner because there is no such thing as the perfect person? I mentioned this when I had a conversation with the practitioner after the workshops had finished, and there was something that she said that stuck with me for the rest of the day…

“None of the things that they all listed were impossible or unachievable – nobody wanted a partner that could fly or magic money out of thin air. The idea behind it is not to give young people false expectations, but to have expectations in the first place. By acknowledging things that they want in a partner, it gives them a chance to focus on two things: that personality is far more important than the way somebody looks, and that they will only be treated in the way that they allow themselves to be.”

She was absolutely right. Their ideas were not anything unexpected. Initially, the boys thought more about boobs and large bottoms and the girls talked about the importance of height and blue eyes, but by the time everyone had finished they had all filled the middle of their diagram with lots of ideas that would make the perfect personality.

I asked some of the students after school what they had gained from the workshop. One of them simply smiled and said,

“I am going to go home and do the activity about me instead of my perfect partner. That way, I know what sort of person I want to become and then I can expect exactly the same of my future boyfriend.”

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A lesson well learned, I think!

What about you? What would your perfect partner look like?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook and Pinterest pages

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When Parents Get It Right

Being childless, I cannot claim to know how difficult being a parent is, but I have found on many occasions that I have become agitated by the lack of consideration and discipline that children and young teenagers demonstrate when are out in public, and working with teenagers for nearly ten years, I have witnessed numerous examples where parents have made excuses for their children, rather than addressing poor behaviour that the child should have been made accountable for. While I don’t believe that any children are bad, I have judgements in the past, whether rightly or wrongly, when I have observed parents making these excuses. One of my biggest annoyances is the disruption that is frequently caused by children and teenagers when attempting to watch a movie at the cinema, and I have written about this on several occasions.

However, a story appeared on my Facebook feed this morning that made me want to punch the air and shout a resounding ‘yes!’ when I read it.

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Image: Rebecca Boyd

On Friday night, Rebecca Boyd took her 12 year-old daughter to see the new Cinderella movie. Her husband had just been made redundant from his job and this would be the last film that they would be able to see for a while, and they were hoping for an enjoyable time.

Unfortunately, (as I have personally experienced on many occasions), their evening was repeatedly disrupted by two teenage girls who were misbehaving throughout – kicking the seats, talking, giggling – and this continued even when Boyd asked them to stop. At the end of the movie, Boyd sent her daughter to the car and spoke to the teens outside the cinema, explaining how their behaviour affects others and her husband’s situation.

In an interview given with Yahoo!Parenting, Boyd explained that she didn’t blame the teens parents, despite being annoyed by the girls behaviour.

However, the teens mother was furious… at her children. The girls were at the movie with their brother, who told their mom everything. Kyesha Smith Wood, whose daughter and step-daughter were the teens who has caused the trouble posted this to Facebook:

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Image: Kyesha Smith Wood/ Facebook

The post went viral, and the comments that Wood received were hugely positive for making her children accountable for their actions.

The post eventually made it to Boyd, who was touched by the response and after connecting over Facebook they hit it off. Since then, both women have been interviewed on numerous occasions, and have demonstrated the upmost respect for each other. Wood told AL.com “A lot of times people get nervous about saying something to a stranger’s kids. We as a community need to hear this, that there are parents out there who still believe in old-fashioned methods.”

And the teens? In an interview with ABC 33/40, Wood explained that they were embarrassed.”They’re humiliated, but that’s ok. I told them, ‘you know what? You’re never going to do it again.’ ”

Both women should be absolutely applauded for their handling of the situation, for supporting each other as parents and for making the girls accountable for their actions. With parents like these, I’m sure that all of their children will grow up to be outstanding young people.

Bravo!

What do you think? As a parent, would you react in the same way?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

Liking To Be Liked

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When I was in my teens, I shared a lot of mutual friends with a girl that attended the same sixth form college as me, and consequently we seemed to spend a lot of time around each other. This would have been fine, other than the fact that she really disliked me. It bothered me and I would go out of my way to talk to her, try and make her laugh and do little things that I thought might please her. It didn’t work – she continued to be cold and distant when she was around me and remained that way until we finished our courses and left. I haven’t seen or heard from her since. Looking back, I can’t believe I wasted so much time and effort – I didn’t actually like her that much to begin with…

The simple fact is that we all like to be liked, even by people that we do not like ourselves. We seek approval, validation and even empathy. We want to be understood, to be praised. Our social media activities are focused on the amount of ‘likes’ and followers we can gain, and the respect that we are often given in the online world will depend how big our numbers are. It’s an inherent, irrational human trait and the overall desire for approval from others can often result in a compromise of actions, behaviour and lifestyle. Indeed, I have compromised myself on many occasions to try and please those around me.  It took until I was in my late twenties to realise a few valuable things about people and friendships.

1. Regardless of who you are and what you do, there will always be those that simply don’t like you.

2. That’s ok.

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After years of bending over backwards for others I stopped being a people pleaser and started to focus on improving myself for me and me alone. I realised that I was the only person that would remain with me throughout the entirety of my life and that it was my own opinion of myself that was more important that those I spent time with.

Does the knowledge that you are disliked upset you? Here are a few questions you need to consider:

1. Can you look at yourself in the mirror and know that you are a good person?

2. Do you live life with morals that you are proud of?

3. Do YOU like you?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions honestly, then nothing else should matter. Go about your business, continue to be a good person, be there for others when they need it, but make sure you are content with yourself first.

And if others don’t like you? They clearly weren’t worth your time in the first place…

What about you? Do you go out of your way to please others?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

No Means No!

imageWhen I was at University I worked at a local bar that was about ten minutes walk away from the apartment that I lived in. One Saturday afternoon I was on my way to a shift that started at 4.00pm. I was wearing a baggy blue checked shirt with the logo of the bar on it, long black trousers and a sturdy pair of black boots. I wasn’t wearing any make-up, my hair was tied up and I was minding my own business. Suddenly, I heard a man shout:

“Oi! Sexy! Where are you going?”

I turned around, thinking it was one of my friends. I didn’t recognise this man or his friend and so I turned around and carried on walking.

“Aww, don’t walk away! Where are you going? Give me your number!”

I ignored him, but the sound of his voice didn’t get any quieter. They were obviously following me.

“Hey baby, have you got a lighter? Come on baby, give me your number!”

I could see my workplace in the distance and I lost my temper, telling them in no uncertain terms to f*ck off in the hope that they would go away. They didn’t. Instead, they sucked their teeth at me and continued to follow, this time shouting abuse and calling me a ‘slag’ and and ‘f*cking stupid b*tch.’ They disappeared when I arrived at work, but it was the scariest experience I’ve had on my own in the street.

It was broad daylight, I wasn’t dressed in a provocative way and I hadn’t prompted any conversation or even looked at them in a way that would suggest I was interested in them. However, it could have been 3.00am and pitch dark, I could have been wearing a bikini and could have applied my make-up on with a shovel, and my thoughts on the matter would still be the same:

No means no.

I’ve been extremely lucky in life. As I write I am sitting next to The Bloke. He towers over me, being 6’3″, he weighs more than me and is considerably stronger than I am, but in the years that I have known him there hasn’t been a single moment where I have felt the least bit intimidated by him. In fact, I haven’t felt physically intimidated by any man that I have dated or had a relationship with (not that there have been many) and I have never engaged in activities that I didn’t want to do.

Unfortunately, some of my friends haven’t been so lucky.

I awoke this morning to the news of the tragedy in Santa Barbara. An obviously mentally ill young man took the lives of six innocent people, before killing himself, an incident that once again leaves everyone in shock. To make matters worse, he created a 141 page manifesto in which he stated that all women should be placed in concentration camps and starved to death, and this has prompted and understandably aggressive stance on the issue of gender equality, assault and abuse across my social media networks. The trolls are out in force – I was horrified to see this conversation posted on Twitter…

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I’m proud to be a woman, and as a woman I believe that I should be treated equally. I should be paid the same wages as a man in the same role and should be offered the same opportunities as my male counterparts. It shouldn’t automatically be assumed that my status as a female means that I will spend my life raising children and/or looking after a home. Above all, I believe that I shouldn’t be harassed or propositioned and should be treated with respect, not just because I am a woman, but because I am a human being.

I’ve seen some really interesting conversations this morning and I seen examples of some of the arguments that were offered in my own life. However, there were a few things that annoyed me slightly – there were some women who seem to be blaming ALL men for this, when most are actually kind, hard-working genuine people, and it isn’t just women who are assaulted. Still, it still doesn’t take away from that fact that no means no, regardless of gender or circumstance.

For example:

Women can easily manipulate men by using sex. An ex-friend of mine is beautiful, but she was highly aware of this and used it to her advantage. During her 18 month relationship with a rich older man she frequently told me that she wasn’t attracted to him, that having sex with him made her skin crawl and that she only did it because he bought her things. However, he didn’t force her at any point to do anything, she did so willingly.

But no means no.

Men can easily manipulate women by using money. A male friend that I haven’t seen in years is rich and he will spend his money on women so they will sleep with him (which he admitted to me when he was drunk).

But no means no.

Women will dress provocatively and are perfectly happy to be chatted up by someone that they find attractive, but they will take offence and refer to them as a ‘pervert’ if they find them unnattractive. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I have seen this happen in nightclubs.

No still means no.

It isn’t just women who are sexually objectified. One of my male friends, who is extremely attractive and has a very defined, muscular body is often groped by drunken women when we go out, particularly if he wears tight T- shirts. His male friends joke about it, but sometimes I can see that he’s really uncomfortable. And male rape is extremely common, it just isn’t talked about.

No means no for men too.

Some women will ‘friend zone’ men without being honest about their feelings and giving the impression that they are romantically interested, keeping them hanging on just enough to give them hope just in case they can’t find anyone that they deem to be better, and this often leaves the men feeling angry and frustrated. The Bloke, being the quintessential ‘nice guy’ has told me many stories of instances where he has been used by his female friends and then promptly friend zoned later, leaving him heartbroken (and obviously, they didn’t know a good thing when they had it – more fool them!)

And again, no means no.

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No means no if you’re a man or woman.

No means no whether you’re in a relationship with a person or whether you’ve just met them.

‘Not now’ means no.

‘I’m in a relationship’ means no.

‘No thanks’ means no.

‘I’m not interested’ means no.

If I have been out in the evening to a local bar, one of my male friends will walk me home or The Bloke will walk down and meet me. If I’m in town my friends will walk me to a taxi station and will insist that I ring them when I am home safely, and I do the same for them. I’m lucky to have great friends, but I shouldn’t have to go through that process. I shouldn’t have to fear walking down the street at night by myself, I shouldn’t have to consider what I wear in case it attracts attention, and I shouldn’t have to avoid eye contact or innocent conversations with people just in case they assume I am hitting on them.

imageThe events in Santa Barbara are horrific, and it has once again brought to light the stigma and taboo that still surrounds the issue of abuse and assault. I hope that instead of feeding the trolls, we can learn from this tragedy and continue to educate each other and our children that no does in fact mean no. And to those of you who have suffered at the hands of another person… You are not alone. Say something. Talk to us. We’re here.

My thoughts are with the victims and their families.

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

Some People Need To Learn Some Manners

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izquotes.com

This morning I decided to treat myself and went to Subway for breakfast. The person working behind the counter was really young and had obviously only started there a few days ago. He was nervous, took ages to get my order together, apologising the entire time and when I had paid I thanked him, I went back to my seat and enjoyed my breakfast.

Just as I was getting ready to leave a young woman walked in. She was smartly dressed in a suit, had obviously just been to the hairdressers and was carrying an expensive handbag. This was the conversation that followed:

Woman: “I want a 6″ sausage sub on Italian Herb and Cheese.”

Employee: “I’m sorry, we don’t have any of that bread ready yet.”

“How about you just choose the bread then, seeing as there’s no point in me choosing it. I don’t know why you bother putting the list there if you aren’t going to provide me with all the options.”

“Sorry about that. Would you like it with cheese and toasted.”

“No.”

“Can I offer you any salad or sauce?”

“Why would I want salad on a breakfast sub? I want tomato sauce. And can you hurry up i’m in a rush.”

The employee made her order, she paid without saying a word and promptly turned and stormed out of the store without so much as a ‘thank you’ or ‘have a nice day.’

How rude. I don’t know how the poor lad didn’t resist the urge to shove her sub up her arse.

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thethingswesay.com

From the age of 16 I worked in several service jobs until I qualified as a teacher. My first was at a fast food chain and I was there for 18 months. It was one of the most depressing jobs that I ever had. Why? I was treated like I was a piece of dirt by the majority of customers that I served, who assumed that I was as thick as two short planks because of my place of employment. I was patronised, verbally abused and even threatened on a few occasions, all for the princely sum of £3.23 an hour. After this I worked at a cinema and then at a nightclub where I experienced similar issues, although I actually loved working at the nightclub because of the staff and the music. At university I worked in my local bar, sometimes doing up to 30 hours a week.

Here are some of the things that I learned:

1. Most service jobs are physically and mentally demanding. I was expected to run around for up to nine/ten hours straight without a proper break. While there are laws in place to prevent this, on extremely busy days almost every manager I have ever worked for ignored these.

2. Some people are never happy with anything. Regardless of the effort you make to please your customers, some will always find a reason to complain. The customer is certainly not always right.

3. Being paid the minimum wage does not entitle the general public to treat employees with minimum respect. If I had been given just 50p every time one of my customers had been rude, disrespectful or had left their manners at home I could have happily retired at the age of 25.

4. The policies of a company are not decided by the shop floor employees. If there is an issue with a policy, these should be taken to the management, not the 16 year old behind the till. They are simply following instructions set by their employers.

5. A job is a job and everybody lucky enough to be working should be applauded that they are doing so in such an unstable economy.

Of course, if an employee is deliberately rude or doesn’t provide you with the product you have paid for then you have every right to complain. However, you should only do so if you genuinely know you have justification to, not just because you are in a bad mood and should speak to the management.

Consequently, I go out of my way to be nice to all employees in the service industry. I’ve been there and I remember that a simple ‘thank you,’ a smile and a ‘have a lovely day’ made those shifts better. So, the next  time you are having a bad day, remember your manners!

Have you ever had a job where you were treated badly by the customers?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

A True Inspiration

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I have avoided writing anything about Nelson Mandela up until this point as I feel that I won’t be able to do his legacy any justice. I have been lucky to have lived a privileged life without fear of hatred or predjudice and can’t possibly comprehend the atrocities that he and his people have witnessed and have tried to avoid jumping on the proverbial bandwagon.

However, as I sit here watching his funeral, I was moved by the outpouring of love for what was an extraordinary man, who lived an extraordinary life.

It isn’t often that we are able to witness the impact that one individual can have on the world. I remember his release from prison and his election as President and in my lifetime I remember endless reports of the happiness and hope that he brought to people all over the world. Mandela was adored by everyone who met him and was treated with the same reverence that would normally be reserved for the highest religious leaders. He had a single message – that everyone, regardless of race, should be treated as equals – and his ability to love and forgive and his wish for a better world should be a message that remains with us all.

Rest In Peace Mandela.

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