LET THE HEN SEE THE DO!

Image**It is a bit sad that I feel the need to write a disclaimer for this post- I guess I am really aware that the events I mention in this blog  are all loosely based upon real events and I don’t want to offend anybody.  It is not my intention to do down anybody’s hen-do, wedding or celebration.. even if they do end up causing me to go blind with stress/go  £200 overdrawn. I will, as ever be there with bells on**

 I am at the age where Hen-do’s and the attending thereof, are becoming a problem. Of course, in writing about this thorny issue, and giving a voice to, what I have no doubt is an almost universal female late 20’s affliction- I am running the risk of never being invited to one of these things again. Which is sad, as I have never been opposed to the idea of a hen-do. I have even been known to enjoy one in practice. But I, like practically the entirety of my generation have absolutely NO idea how these once low-key affairs, have suddenly become an excuse to foist an enormous amount of inexplicable cost upon the people that you supposedly care about the most in life.

 If we think about what a celebration is; a bunch of nearest and dearest getting together with some good food, an activity, some booze and usually some element of spontaneity thrown in for good measure (simple, right?).  It perhaps seems all the more bemusing that modern hen-dos are becoming as far removed from this template as it is possible to be. And of course, with Hollywood Movies, Women’s Magazines and Celebrities to compare to, it is no surprise that what once was a night on the town with some girlfriends, has mutated into the standard 3 day minibreak that is oh-so commonplace.

 “It’s not that I mind paying, of course I would do anything to attend!” said a friend recently, as she distractedly did some swift mental arithmetic in her head. “So if I just go to the meal on the Thursday evening, the cheerleading on the Sat, pottery that afternoon and afternoon tea… then that should just leave me enough for the night out, the actual do.. if I don’t drink, because if I drink then I won’t hve enough for the Taxi….” Further calculations revealed that she would require an outfit (£50 in the sale), appropriate shoes for cheerleading (£10, Primark) and a selection of “fun” items with which to decorate the chi chi apartment, which would serve as the hen coop for the weekend. Half an hour later, the same friend was near tears when I pointed out that she forgot the cost of the accommodation (£190), petrol to get to the venue and the fact that she would have to take two days off her holiday allowance just in order to attend.  

“What else does the schedule say?” She said, anxiously, peering at the email on her iPhone- “SHOPPING??” now, apoplectic with rage “WHO IS GOING TO BE ABLE TO AFFORD TO SHOPPING?”.

We cut short our coffee date pretty soon after it transpired, via a particularly chirpy text from the Chief Bridesmaid that each hen would be expected to chip in “an additional £40… for the Bride to be!!”… yay for that.

 It would seem, that whilst under normal circumstances, it would be considered grossly unfair to expect people to shell out so much on anything, people sometimes forget when there is a Wedding involved. In my experience, it is usually not the Bride that is to blame, there is a much more sinister force at play here.

The Chief Bridesmaid will usually have been tasked with arranging this whupla roughly a week after the engagement was set. She will do one of two things: She will a) Pretend that the whole thing is not happening, draft in some more organised mates and cobble together something acceptable at the last min which will be costly and tedious for all involved. Or she will, being a hopeless overachiever opt for option b) THROW A LOT OF MONEY AT THE PROBLEM.

 

I am not generalising here, OK.. maybe I am. I know of several well planned, fun hen dos  where the head bridesmaid has really worked hard to ensure a fun and affordable time is had by all.

 But then, of course.. I am not talking about that kind of hen do. The Chief Bridesmaid, drunk on power, giddy in her role as “The chosen one”, “The BEST FRIEND” will have been in the know about this for some months. She will have guarded her plans jealously, keeping the details and the subsequent cost a total secret from everyone else. And all the time she is saving, saving her pennies for this, her moment to shine! It probably never occurs to the people organising these do’s that in reality, they only usually warn  tell the other hens a couple of months before. Essentially, you are always going to get off on the wrong foot against someone who has estimated this cost from the get-go and is probably only going to be attending one of these things in the first place. She will certainly neglect to remember that some of you are mere guests at the wedding and will have to buy an outfit, gift AND stay somewhere.

Probably worse still, is when we have more than one Bridesmaid charged with organising the event. Usually in this case it is two or three women, one of which is usually a sister or relative of the bride and another a close friend. By rights, the whole thing should run like a dream with more hands on deck- but don’t be fooled, women foisted into an unlikely tag-team, cemented by Sambucca shots will eventually grow resentful and become counter productive. Consumed with their respective ideas that they feel represent the Bride THEY know, the entire event is likely to be a mish-mash of conflicting activities and awkward revelations which leave everyone, including the Bride in the dark. It’s what habitually happens, trust me.

 As a person who attended 3 hen do’s last year and who has been invited to a further 4 in 2013, I can honestly say that the cost was….. well, it was crippling. Not only was my entire holiday allowance for the year wiped out due to people wanting to “Start the party on the Thursday!”. I also had to find the cash to fly abroad, go to the Connaught and find a dress that would not make me look like a person who spends a large proportion of their days dressed as a teenage boy. Somehow, things just aren’t as fun when you are spending a large percentage of your time worrying about the things you will have to sacrifice in order to be included. People also underestimate the emotional strain of such events; getting a bit serious here, I recognise that a person suffering from anxiety should probably steer clear of situations that bring on sudden bouts of body-dysmorphia and self loathing. Girls can be fiercely competitive when they get together- everyone wants to assert how well they know the hen, what their personal claim to her friendship is and her, being the glue that binds you all together is probably the only person who actually has something in common with everybody… It can be extremely stressful, like being back at school again, those old desires to fit in seem to resurface, and I have seen even the most confident woman go a bit bonkers under the pressure. Everyone will spend the whole time fretting, yet not letting ON that they are fretting….excellent.

 Because a hen-do, is no longer just “The Girls getting together” thanks to friendship groups widening and people scattering across the country, the average hen do can often encompass a wide range of people from a variety of walks of life. If you think about how likely you are to bond with Auntie Jean (aged 50) or a scouse girl called Veronica with questionable eyebrows under any circumstances other than those involving penis straws, the stranger the whole thing becomes. Paying vast amounts of money to do this only makes the whole thing worse.

 I read back what I wrote just then, and I sounded like a party pooper but the truth is, I’m not. I have been the girl who stays up late making t- shirts for 15 women of varying bresticular proportions. I have cancelled work to fly out to a place several days early, to make sure the event goes smoothly. And, because I love my friends, I will probably continue to blow a hefty proportion of my disposable income on group activities at vastly inflated prices. I guess until we really get nostaligic about things again and people start yearning for the hen-do’s of yore… a night on the Malibu at the local club, wearing a tacky sash and tiara, rather than trying to justify our final night of freedon by doing ALL THE THINGS, the modern he-do will never change.

 I guess all I can really do is hope that when the er, ring is on the other finger that everyone has some spare cash to join me on my trip to Necker Island in a boat made of Gold, crewed entirely by One Direction, with day activities that include a Diamond Hunt and something else that is equally obnoxiously lavish.. it will be SOOOOOO much fun!

LET THE HEN SEE THE DO!

When Abi thought she was going to die.

 I had an experience recently which genuinely filled me with the fear of impending death. I was not dangling from a cliff, indulging in copious amounts of drugs or alcohol, nor was I involved in the kind of high-speed car chase where you think that any moment Keanu is going to pop up and yell “THERE IS NO MORE ROAD LEFT”.

 

No, when I experienced my particular episode, I was on the number 76 bus from South Bristol  (because life is a cruel Mistress, who is reluctant to let you fall apart in a padded cell or cozy bed). I was on my way back from a meeting and had just had coffee with a friend so the day had not been a particularly fraught one. My hair was looking good and, having dropped a bit of weight recently, I still had an especially nice ass-related compliment ringing in my ears.

  Halfway through doing what I always do on the bus (scribble in my Moleskine) the pen slipped from the page. It clattered to the floor, running down the foot well to the bottom deck. Nobody even looked up. I contemplated it’s retrieval…..

And then, the arse fell out of my world.

If you have never had a panic attack then you might be tempted to roll your eyes at what I am about to tell you. You might think that I am being overly dramatic or sensationalist. How can a person be fine one moment and totally paralysed with fear the next? You can’t really. It’s not rational, it’s not something you can explain. Add up all the components of my day and there is absolutely no reason why I was sitting on that bus, torn between wanting to stay in my seat and never leave and kick a window in so I could get off sooner.

If you have ever been carsick, you may be familiar with that horrible, urgent feeling that creeps up your torso just before you boff. For me, at least, a panic attack comes on in a similar way.  I start taking tiny sips of air, as if the very act of taking in oxygen will cause a TERRIBLE BAD THING TO HAPPEN. I come over all clammy; that hot/cold feeling akin to telling a person you fancy them with a sure-fire chance of rejection, then the sickness and finally, the thoughts. The crazy, crazy thoughts.

 As a person who has, in the past been quite depressed and prone to irrationality, I am, all told, quite sensible. I am the kind of person who will pep a person up by saying something life-affirming and positive. So it is a complete mystery to me that when I start to panic, my thoughts seem to abandon my brain and become replaced by those of Bungle, George and Zippy. I am fully aware that I need to breathe deeply, slow my heart rate and generally just calm the Fuck down. It is however, made immeasurably difficult to do this when the cast of Rainbow are conducting an orgy of insanity from within your skull.

Later, when I had calmed down and burst into floods of tears outside Greggs, my Doctor told me that it was just a panic attack JUST A PANIC ATTACK? It was a good thing this happened to me on the bus, imagine if I was driving or operating heavy machinery! Just a Panic Attack indeed.

Of course, I understand what he was trying to say. That, far from being the sudden death experience I thought it was, a panic attack is actually a wholly manageable affliction.

Not, obviously, when you are the fool having one.

 I found the Mind website to be a wealth of information about how best to deal with Panic attacks in general. Remember that it is not “silly” or irrational to suffer from episodes like these, there are many different reasons why they happen and conversely, many different ways of dealing with them when they happen. They might just be a part of your life, or symptomatic of a deeper rooted issue or form of stress. Look at them as your body telling you something. One day I hope that when those sicky-waves start creeping up on me I will be able to rationally tell the voices to back off. I hope you can do the same.

When Abi thought she was going to die.

What to do when moving on is actually moving backwards.

(Image by Abi Bansal – abibansal.com, model Karen Cowell for Faqtor magazine)

I always wanted to blog to document what was happening to me. But what if what was happening to me was so dreadful that even I didn’t want to admit it was happening?

It has been a year off of sorts. A year off from blogging, Tweeting and all of the other things that go hand in hand with “being connected”. It wasn’t a descision that I took lightly, more like it was something that I felt I really had to do. It was essential for my own wellbeing to take a step back, to look at what was truly important in my life and build something I could be proud of. Something for myself.

I read a tweet recently that said something along the lines of “If you give your heart to someone, you do so with the risk that they might drop it and break it”. Someone was less than careful with my heart and for a long time I focussed my energies on trying to mend it. I hid away, I shot pictures, I travelled a bit, I made new friends.

I started again.

Starting again is ultimately a terrifying thing to do insofar as you have to deal with the unknown. Only you have to do it carrying around the baggage and the damage of what has gone before. And of course NOBODY knows what you have been through, even fewer people actually care that you are essentially bleeding internally. That sounds dramatic but to me, that is what it felt like.

At times like these, it really can be sink or swim. I am not claiming that I rode the tidal waves of pain and humiliation with ease and abandonment. I almost definately sunk right to the bottom of the pool, and even now I don’t know exactly what it was that made me surface again. All I do know is that one day, it just stopped hurting so much.

I won’t go on about all the things that have happened to me in the 12 months or so since I was last here but I can safely say that, on the whole the year has been a good one. Some shit went down, sure- but nothing that I couldn’t deal with. The big D comes and goes and sometimes you just have to do what Stephen Fry would do; form that mental umbrella to the elemental buffering you are suffering at the time and hope that it will pass.

Because it really does. Pass I mean. I am now at the stage where I choose not to let things upset me, perhaps this realisation came when I stopped tweeting for a year- suddenly I was finally in control of how much certain things could throw me off kilter. I admit that I am a sensitive person, I am prone to dwelling on half truths, selective information and not seeing the full picture. I read things that don’t reassure me, don’t give me the answers I convince myself I need… and then, feeling sad and overlooked, I turn it inward, reflecting it back on myself and reinforcing the core belief that I am not_good_enough. I do all this because I can never really say how I feel to the person. I am scared they will laugh at me, or worse still, reject me. To be rejected for experiencing thoughts and feelings that are, and have always been beyond your control is like taking the needy train to vulnerable town. Population You. No, it is far, far easier to stay in limbo, not knowing what is really going on (because if you did it might be what you know in your heart to be true) but at the same time having hope. However nuts that sounds, hope fuels all of us. We all hope that we will be proved wrong and that the outcome will for once, just this once work in our favour. Maybe this time we won’t be left feeling sad and broken and alone. The choices of this… person, this other independant person with their own thought processes and input is suddenly everything. I did this last night. I am not proud of myself.

Of course, that is bollocks. No one thing that a human being can do in the context of living their life should ever, ever wield that power over our wellbeing. To do so gives them almost God- like power. No one person, however awesome you think they are, can be the God of your world, that’s your job.

Of course, you can always console yourself with the likelihood that they are probably talking a lot of tripe and it has nothing to do with you whatsoever, that works too.

What to do when moving on is actually moving backwards.