Stream On Vol. 14

Hope you’re having a fab week and enjoying the beautiful weather! Welcome to volume fourteen of Stream On, where I recommend 5 things you could watch on some of your favourite streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 1234567891011, 12 and 13.

Frances Ha (2012 – Film4 – 86 mins)

I revisited this film a few months back, for an article for the English Media Centre’s MediaMagazine and I can say with some certainty I love it even more as a result. Very, very few films examine platonic relationships with the intensity and potency as they do romantic relationships – this is one of them. Speaking from personal experience, friendship break-ups can in some ways feel even more cataclysmic than relationship breakups – and this film agrees. We follow Frances (Greta Gerwig) as her soulmate Sophie (Mickey Sumner) drifts away from her. Bittersweet and beautiful, with an iconic David Bowie needle drop of this banger. Oh, and this guy pops up called Adam Driver pops up in it. Whatever happened to that guy?

The Intern (2015 – Sky/Now – 121 mins)

The cinematic equivalent of a comfy chair, blanket and a mug of hot chocolate (obviously with whipped cream and marshmallows – I’m not a heathen). Seventy-year-old widower Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Just lovely stuff.

A Single Man (2009 – Amazon Prime – 99 mins)

Based on the 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood (a fascinating writer, his semi-autobiographical novel inspired the musical Cabaret). An English professor (Colin Firth), one year after the sudden death of his boyfriend, is unable to cope with his typical days in 1960s Los Angeles. Firth is extraordinary, with an incredible supporting cast in the form of Julianne Moore, Nicholas Hoult and Matthew Goode. The fact this was the debut of writer-director Tom Ford (yes, the designer) continues to boogle the mind.

Atypical (2017-2021 – Netflix – 38 x 30 mins)

Having had the joyous discovery this week that this is coming back for season 4 on July 7th, I had to give this one the plug it deserves. Sam (Keir Gilchrist), an 18-year-old on the autism spectrum, decides it’s time to find a girlfriend, a journey that sets Sam’s mom (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on her own life-changing path as her son seeks more independence. Brigette Lundy-Paine plays Sam’s sibling so wonderfully, Michael Rapaport just heart-breaking as their dad. Gorgeous, funny and heartfelt.

Kinky Boots (2005 – BBC iPlayer – 107 mins)

In the near-future, if there was a way to download our brains into some software to find the filmic dna that makes us who we are – this one would undoubtedly feature on my list. A drag queen (Chiwetel Ejiofor) comes to the rescue of a man (Joel Edgerton) who, after inheriting his father’s shoe factory, needs to diversify his product if he wants to keep the business afloat. There’s so many reasons as to why it would feature, but the biggest one would have to be it’s opening sequence – the transcendently rapturous joy captured to my favourite song of all time. Yes, it’s by David Bowie – how’d you know?

Fatigued and Adrift in Different Sized Lifeboats

If my life were a film or book (as I still so desperately wish…) the follow-up blog post to Strong Girl Summer would be an empowering and anthemic read, a rousing review of how inspired and changed I’ve become. Written as I sit at my desk, like Carrie in Sex and The City – pulling faces to myself as I gather my profound reflections from having lived life to it’s fullest. Charlotte 8.0 (or whatever number I’m on at this point) would have arrived and would be here to stay. Sadly, but not embarrassingly as I write with no shame here, it’s not going to be.

I’ll be honest folks, it’s all been a bit shit lately. Nothing particularly bad has happened, but nothing particularly good or great has happened either. I feel flat. Totally deflated and bitterly tired. All the time. I genuinely feel like I’m surviving on a day-to-day basis, existing and doing what I can to get by. It feels as if I’m wasting my life, stuck in a purgatory of sort-of my own making whilst waiting for life to begin.

I’ve a strong suspicion that I’m not the only one feeling this way. In fact, it’s what inspired the title for this blog post. Since last year, mostly March for my UK readers – earlier for any international visitors – we have all experienced a global trauma. We have all experienced something that had previously only existed in textbooks and works of fiction. It’s one of the only things in our lifetime that 99.9% of the world’s population will have endured in some capacity. But that capacity and that extent differs so so greatly. Not a single person in the world, not even in the same household, will have had the same experience over the past year and months. The country in which we reside, the county in which we reside, where our families live, the size of our families, our race, our class, our gender, our age – every single one of these factors will have played a part in our experience and our comprehension of what exactly we have endured.

If Covid was the Titanic, we’ve all ended up in different sized lifeboats. The very existence of those lifeboats, the weariness of our spirits are as we drift within them, those are things we share. But the size of that lifeboat, and our capacity for how much more we can take, that’s the big difference. The thing that can divide us and make it all feel so brutally overwhelming. The thing that makes us feel like our lifeboat isn’t floating well enough, isn’t stable enough.

The thing that makes it feel like our lifeboat is sinking.

I’ve been consuming as many think pieces and reflections on the past year as I can find. It’s not just a fascination from a sociological standpoint (although people really are bloody weird, brilliant and absolutely fascinating) but a desperate search for answers. A pointless grasp at understanding something that really can’t be understood. A yearning to know that I am doing okay. That it is all going to be okay.

I wish I could give you that, an assurance that it’s all going to get better soon. I can’t tell you how much I wish I could tell you and myself that. But what I can do is say that I’m not okay, and it’s okay if you’re not feeling okay either.

Yesterday, during my daily debrief with my housemate, she made a point I’ve thought about near constantly since. When I vented, yet again, over not feeling together or whole and in fact really bloody lost – when everyone looked sorted, certain and found – she pointed out I’d made that conclusion from social media and personal accounts. I’m holding myself to account of a standard that doesn’t exist, a curated editions of people’s lives that will often scarily touch beyond the surface of what is actually going on or how they feel.

Whether my social media, or how I present myself in person actually reveal it, here’s what’s going on under the surface. My body constantly aches from Long Covid. By 4pm each day my brain is clouded by brain fog and my thoughts become harder to gather. I’m struggling to sleep and the sleep I do get barely makes a dent to my tiredness levels. I’m terrified that it might take the 2 year recovery time the Post-Covid clinic anticipates. I feel lonely all the time, craving intimacy to an extent I fear can be seen and felt from miles away. I feel unwanted, undeserving of affection and attention. I don’t feel good enough for my job and ground down by how I wish I was better at it. I feel jealous all the time of other writers and of opportunities that feel so out of my reach. I feel broken, held together by increasingly unsticky Sellotape that could fall apart any minute. I fear I’m wasting my life and on the wrong path, not making the right choices. I just don’t feel enough.

But hopefully, by admitting all of that, by acknowledging those terrors and unadmittables in the depths of these psychological icebergs – maybe then I’m starting to make steps to ensure my lifeboat keeps on floating. And maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance it’s helped yours a little bit too.

*Being a bit earnest here, but please do get in touch if you liked what you read here. Not only does it let me know that someone is actually reading this (which will never not be just the most amazing thing ever) but also it’s incredible to hear these thoughts resonate. I’ve had a bunch of messages in recent weeks with feedback and I can’t tell you how much they mean.

Stream On Vol.13

Hope you’re having a fab week and enjoying the beautiful weather! Welcome to volume thirteen of Stream On, where I recommend 5 things you could watch on some of your favourite streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 12345678910, 11 and 12.

Luca (2021 – Disney+ – 95 mins)

Unusual for Pixar, this isn’t an achingly poignant watch. Instead it’s a really charming coming-of-age summer movie, about a sea monster Luca (Jacob Tremblay) who tries out being human with the help of Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) and unknowing villager Giulia (Emma Berman). Gorgeous animation – to the extent I really wish we’d had the option of watching on the big screen – told with humour and heart. Really bloody charming.

Us Again (2021 – Disney+ – 7 mins)

Before you watch Luca you’re going to need to watch a Pixar short, as per their cinematic tradition. Go for this one and have a lovely cathartic weep.

Together (2021 – BBC iPlayer – 90 mins)

A married couple, He (James McAvoy) and She (Sharon Horgan) are forced to re-evaluate themselves and their relationship through the reality of the Covid-19 lockdown. Hilarious, heart-breaking and beautifully done.

On Becoming A God In Central Florida (2019 – Netflix – 10 x 46 mins)

Disclaimer, I’m only on episode three of this so I can’t speak upon the whole series, but the those first few episodes are so compelling I’m going to give this an early seal of approval. In 1992 Central Florida, a minimum-wage water park employee (Kirsten Dunst) lies, schemes, and cons her way up the ranks of the cultish, multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme that drove her family to ruin. So dark and scathing, Dunst is incredible.

Our Friend (2019 – Amazon Prime – 124 mins)

Inspired by a true story, that first appeared as this Esquire story, Dane (Jason Segel) puts his life on hold and moves in with his best friends Matt (Casey Affleck) and Nicole (Dakota Johnson) when she receives life-altering news. Although it doesn’t reinvent the wheel in how the story is told, the story itself will tug at the heartstrings. Perfect Sunday afternoon watching.

Stream On Vol.12

Hope you’re having a fab week and enjoying the beautiful weather! Welcome to volume twelve of Stream On, where I recommend 5 things you could watch on some of your favourite streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 12345678910 and 11.

Adult Life Skills (2016 – Netflix – 96 mins)

Anna (Jodie Whittaker) is comfortable enough living in her mom’s garden shed making funny videos all day, but as she approaches 30, the reminders of her lost twin and the pressure from her mum to finally grow up begin to weigh heavily on her. Kindly awkward Brendan (Brett Goldstein) and a troubled 8 year old Western obsessive may be the perfect people to help.

24 Hour Party People (2002 – All4- 117 mins)

Directed by Michael Winterbottom and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, we follow the possibly-true story of Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) – the man who founded Factory Records and which bought us the music of  Joy Division and New OrderA Certain RatioThe Durutti Column and Happy Mondays. Packed full of British icons, this is a sharply written and performed must-see modern classic.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988 – BBC iPlayer – 108 mins)

I have a soft spot for this one for two reasons. 1) It’s a screwball classic starring John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline. 2) My dad (Nicholas Harrison) has a walk-on role in it. Here he is, 4/5 years B.C. (Before Charlotte)

The Party’s Just Beginning (2018 – Now/Sky – 91 mins )

Written, directed and starring (Karen Gillan), this is an achingly personal film following Liusaidh (Gillian) as she tries to pick up the pieces after her best friend loses his life to suicide. Her life has become a string of drinking, fast fod and meaningless sexual encounters. Dale (Lee Pace) is the stranger she meets who seems to be in as much pain as she is. (T.W for sexual assault and suicide)

Almost Famous ( 2000 – Prime – 122 mins)

Inspired by writer-director (Cameron Crowe)’s own adolescence, a 1970s high-school boy (Patrick Fugit) is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band (with it’s warring stars Billy Crudup and Jason Lee) as he accompanies them on their concert tour. Kate Hudson is groupie extraordinaire Penny Lane and Philip Seymour Hoffman is Lester Bangs, William’s writing mentor – both who guide William through the adventure that is to come. Extraordinary.

Stream On Vol. 11

Hope you’re having a fab week and enjoying the beautiful weather! Welcome to volume eleven (can you believe?!?) of Stream On, where I recommend 5 things you could watch on some of your favourite streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 12345678, 9 and 10.

Moonstruck (1987 – BBC iPlayer – 96 mins)

One of the most perfect romantic comedies there is. Cinematic chicken soup for the soul.

One Cut Of The Dead (2017 – All4 – 91 mins)

A film of two parts. Part one – an attempt at a live stream zombie movie. Part two – just why it went so hilariously wrong. Persevere through the cringe of the half and you’ll be rewarded with comedy gold in the second. I’m grinning just thinking about it!

Feel Good (2021 – Netflix – 12 x 25 mins)

Originally a Channel 4 production, before moving to Netflix for it’s second and final season, the end result is 12 episodes of bittersweet comedic perfection. Partially autobiographical, Mae Martin is a comedy who starts dating George (Charlotte Ritchie), a woman who had only previously dated men. As they navigate George’s understanding her sense of self, Mae continue to be haunted by past traumas. Phil Burgers is wonderfully endearing as their flatmate. Lisa Kudrow and Adrian Lukis play Mae’s parents. A modern comedy classic.

Dora And The Lost City Of Gold (2019 – Sky/NOWtv – 102 mins)

A truly underappreciated adaptation of the iconic tv series, Dora (Isabela Merced) has to lead her friends on an adventure to rescue her explorer parents (Eva Longoria and Michael Peña). Funny and charming, perfect for all the family.

Dark Waters (2020 – Amazon Prime – 127 mins)

Now for something rather different, a true story following a corporate defence attorney (Mark Ruffalo) as he takes on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution. Haunting and powerful.

Strong Girl Summer

Back at the start of May, a close friend and I were laughing about all the talk over ‘Hot Girl Summer’. We concluded that, at best, we’d manage a ‘Lukewarm and Overtired Girl Summer’. Then the rest of May hit. Anecdotally, I know I’m not alone in saying May was a *lot*. In some way or another, I think we all went through it last month. I know that’s also been the case for most months since March 2020, and yet last month somehow felt so much worse. I think it’s down to the fact that we’ve all required being handled with care, to be treated gently and with kindness – yet we’re all so exhausted we’ve not got the emotional capacity for it – trapped in a vicious cycle where we’ve never needed each other’s support more yet never been as unable to provide it.

Those who know me know I put myself through the ringer last month, going on a break with dating apps as they were having a huge toll on my wellbeing (which you can read about here). You might also know that I’ve had Long Covid for 8 months (I wrote a reflection at the 100 day mark here). You possibly even know about my Post-Covid Clinic hospital appointment last week that confirmed I’ve developed asthma, am looking at two year recovery time frame from LC and have been referred to for Talking Therapy as I’m not coping well with things.

Perhaps the appointment was the last straw, or things had been brewing for a while, but I had a nasty all-encompassing cold hit immediately after and had a brutal 48 hours. Off work and alone with my thoughts, physically broken and mentally not that much better, I went to some places. Dark, nasty, lonely and cruel places. If asked to rank them, I’d say with some certainty that those two days make the list of Top Ten Days I’ve Felt The Worst.

Whether it’s the sun of this week, having had most of a half term to recuperate, the hope of a new month – or a combination of all three – I’ve emerged determined. Determined to feel better and happier. Striving to live and not just exist. I’m not going to be trying for Hot Girl Summer (though very flattered if you think otherwise [insert winky face and hair fluff here…] ) Instead I’m trying for Strong Girl Summer. My Long Covid Rehab sessions are allowing me to feel stronger on the outside. Brief aside for self-celebration here – back in April, for my interview for the programme, I managed 11 sit-to-stands in a miniute. Last Tuesday, at that appointment we shall never discuss again – 20. 20. TWENTY! Almost double the amount when I started! Now, I want to work on the inner stuff. I need to. And so, I’ve come up with these six mantras for Strong Girl Summer. They will hopefully be my guide to being braver, more powerful and stronger than yesterday. Let me know your thoughts on them and if you end up giving them a try!

  1. Thou shall pursue the path of self-kindness.

One of my biggest problems is holding myself up to impossible standards that I cannot meet, then berating myself for having not met them. Thus kickstarting a wonderful self-fulfilling, vicious cycle, inevitable prophecy of feeling undeniably shit. For double effectiveness, I may also chuck in a side order of comparison to ensure I feel like I’m failing at life. No more! As one of my favourite people told me during a much-needed pep talk recently, comparison is the thief of joy, my journey is just that – mine. There’s no such thing as a wrong choice or decision, whatever path I’m on and whatever diversions I take are the right ones. I will be working towards being more understanding of what is achievable, and most importantly what is in my control. And quieting the voice in my head that tries to undermine it all – if I wouldn’t say it to a friend, or even an enemy, how dare I say it to myself?!?

2. Thou shall be thine own cheerleader.

Which leads nicely onto this one, no more waiting around for other people to acknowledge us or our achievements. Own them and celebrate them, loudly and proudly for all to hear. If you do a cool thing let the world know, if you want. If you don’t, at the very least celebrate yourself and whatever brilliant thing has happened for yourself. Whilst it’s great you may have family and friends who will cheer you on, it’s not their job to. Turn the mic off for the nasty critical voice and dial the volume up to 11 for the encouraging and supportive one. Maybe even give them some jazzy pom-poms.

3. Thou shall be bold and no longer practice the ‘art’ of subtlety.

And when you’re doing this celebrating, don’t be afraid to do it boldly. Think of how much time and energy we waste wondering what other people think of us and how we need to play it cool. I vow to abandon any hopes of cool and enigma, if I like a thing you’re going to know it. And if I love it, then wow… it’s going to be wild. Good service in a restaurant? Make sure you let the bosses know. Liked a film, book, tv show or song? Tweet the creator, shout about it to all your friends. Liked this incredible blog post? Let the dazzling wit of a writer know (you total gem you!) Life is short and can be over in an instant, why be vanilla and neutral when you can dazzle. Brighten someone’s day by letting them know just how much they mean to you. I refuse to live a life of neutrality and sitting on the fence, when there’s so much joy to be had and shared.

4. Thou shall not chase those who do not wish to be chased.

This one applies to both friendships and relationships – although for me it’s definitely more of the latter. The amount of time I have wasted overanalysing messages, or lack therefore of, of men who genuinely gave zero shits about me – it’s genuinely nauseating (in the past and, in one instance the present too). I’ve constantly had thoughts about how I could adapt myself so they want me – be that physically or personality wise (If only I was thinner, shorter, quieter/louder, smarter, less nerdy…) Making sure I was available to reply to messages or to be there for them, because maybe then they’d finally see me. Scrutinising the replies when they *eventually* replied, bereft if no reply ever came, planning on how to get them to talk with me, how I could show I was good enough for them and their attention. NO MORE! I am exhausted from giving time, love and energy to those who I do not matter to at all. It someone loves or cares about me, none of those things matter – there will be no need to prove myself or my worth to them. They will want me for me.

5. Thou shall embrace the present.

My superpower (aside from fiercely strong facial muscles, as my combination of Bells Palsy and having my jaw broken 8 years ago inadvertently revealed) is my ability to assess in 60 seconds an infinite amount of ways things can go wrong. Useful at times, particularly with the teaching, not so much for living a happy and healthy life. Upon reflection, I think it’s rare for me to be in a moment – instead I’m preparing and doing all I can to anticipate the next one. Which leads to the question, what is the point? Why arrange exciting adventures with fabulous friends, when I’m already worrying about what time tube I’ll get home, if I’ve got food in and even rehearsing how and when we’ll say goodbye. This one will be tricky, but I’m going to try and slow my brain down. Not so much my internal clock and dazzling efficiency. More staying within my body, my mind and the moment. Centring myself and appreciating the moment I find myself in, not shutting myself off by disassociating and missing out.

6. Thou shall show openness to all that awaits.

I often find myself thinking about the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Ted wishes he was older, that he could skip all the process and be done – settled and desperately happy with the love of his life. I cannot begin to imagine how many times I’ve had the same thought as I scrolled through awful bios, awkward talking stages and navigating the dating graveyard littered with ghosts of situationships past. All of the previous mantras add up to this one, trusting the process and having faith that it will all be alright. And if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end. Maybe I’ll never met anyone, that happens for some people. Maybe I’ll never know romantic love. But, if that’s the case it’ll be that case for a reason. It won’t mean my life is lacking in purposefulness. I will not be failure when I have so so so much joy in so many other aspects of my life. There’s a reason I’m on the path I’m on, be that living out a great plan or a bunch of side quests. There’s no rush for whatever comes next, as there’s really only one inevitable destination for us all. Live in the moment, embrace the good and learn from the bad. No-one knows what will happen from one-minute to the next. As the great David Bowie said, I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.

Good luck with your Strong Girl Summer. Let me know how you get on with yours, I’ll certainty keep you updated on mine…

A Love Letter to… Cinema Curtains

Back in January, when cinemas were closed and we had no idea if/when they’d reopen, as part of a project I was working on, I was asked to write a love letter to an aspect of cinema. I instantly knew exactly what I wanted to write about, Cinema Curtains! My next thought was ‘Why on Earth?!? What are you thinking?’ Once I got writing though, it really became clear.

There are few inanimate objects that can cause a hush to descend upon a crowd. One of the few exceptions are the curtains in a cinema screen, those undervalued and underappreciated and underseen beauties that command a presence most of us could only dream of having.

Of the many, many, many things I’ve missed these past ten months – my more-than-once-a-week cinema visits are towards the top. But, within that, the aspect I’ve most missed are those bloomin’ cinema curtains. The curtains at BFI, at Picturehouse Central, Regents Street and Prince Charles Cinemas – as mad as it sounds, I miss you all as much as I miss some of my friends. That’s because I miss what you bring us. Your opening, often accompanied in this blissful choreography with the lights switching  off, brings a stillness I’ve craved. A stillness I don’t think I’ve ever fully appreciated until now, and certainly one I need back again.

There’s a degree of liberation to be found when those curtains open, the lights turn off and the screen ratio adjusts. It’s a release of breath, a calmness takes over as we’re about to begin a pause from reality and an escape into another world. No matter how similar or dissimilar that world on the screen is going to be from our own, the very act of it being unveiled by those curtains makes us safe in the knowledge that the show can begin. For those 90+ minutes we shall find a freedom in fiction or a respite in reality. 

And, no matter how hard you try, it’s an experience near impossible to replicate at home. Since March 2020, we’ve spent our days plugged into screens of varying sizes, but rarely the one that reaches the heights we love. The big and beautiful screen hidden behind those curtains that connote intrigue, mystery and a journey about to begin. A journey most of us cannot wait to recommence once more. 

Stream On Vol. 10

Hope you’re having a great week. Welcome to volume ten of Stream On, where I recommend 5 things you could watch on some of your favourite streaming sites. Not enough for you here? Try the previous volumes – volumes 12345678 and 9.

Shrill (2019 – BBC iPlayer – 30mins x 22)

Aidy Bryant plays Annie Easton, a woman in her late twenties whose trying to change her life without changing her body. She’s in a 6 month long situationship with Ryan (Luka Jones), who is so ashamed of her that he forces her to leave out the backdoor of his home so his housemates don’t see her. Fran (Lolly Adefope), her best friend is desperate for her to realise she deserves better. The same also applies for her work, where her punk-rock editor Gabe (John Cameron Mitchell) has no idea how best to utilise Aidy’s writing. This wonderful show explores love, friendship, family and self-image so brilliantly. Full of fantastic moments, season 1 episode 4 features an iconic and empowering sequence sound tracked to Ariana Grande’s One Last Time.

Attack the Block (2011 – Now/SKY/Amazon Prime/ ALL4 – 88 mins)

This year marks ten years since Attack The Block burst onto our screens, with stars John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker becoming household names in the years since. With talk about a sequel, it’s the perfect time to return to this action-comedy about a teen gang defending their block from an Alien invasion.

Happy-Go-Lucky (2008 – Amazon Prime – 118 mins)

Written and directed by Mike Leigh, we follow a few chapters in the life of North London primary school teacher Poppy (Sally Hawkins) as she learns to drive. Possessing an irrefutable optimism that tends to exasperate those arounds her, Hawkins is a true joy to watch in this wonderful gem of a movie.

Tropic Thunder (2008 – Amazon Prime – 106 mins)

Remember the Frat Pack movies of the noughties? Comedies starring a recurring revolving door of actors who seemed to have as much fun filming as we had watching? This is top tier frat pack – when a group of actors (played by Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson and Ben Stiller) are forced to become the soldiers they are playing after a series of freak occurrences. Packed full of hilarious and infinitely quotable lines, it also features two scene-stealing performances by Matthew McConaughey and Tom Cruise.

Away (2019 – SKY/Now – 75 mins)

To say too much would spoilt it. A boy and a little bird are on a journey across a strange island trying to get back home- just spectacular.

The h-APP-ening

For over a month, I could sense something was wrong. Uncomfortable with myself and in my own skin, finding myself bursting into bleak tears on a bi-nightly basis – it really couldn’t carry on. Upon performing a self-assessment of my life, an overview of proceedings in a desperate search to find out the cause of the problem, I think I found it. Dating apps. Right now, for me, they’re causing more harm than good to my sense of self and my wellbeing. In fact, they were making me profoundly unhappy. After over 14 months where dating apps have been our main, and in some months only, source of meeting new people – I have been one of the many people dependent on them. Hooked on them. Desperate for them to work. Willing something, anything , to happen. And I’m only just realising how much I’ve been using them to emotionally self-harm.

As a society, we’re force feed a narrative when it comes to relationships and the role they play within our lives. As an enteral singleton, with brief spurts of dating and situationships that have been variable (mostly not-good) I constantly feel flawed. Broken. Unwanted. Clearly there must be something not right with me, otherwise I’d be with someone won’t I? Whether anyone actually thinks that about me, I neither know nor care. That’s a relatively new train of thought for me, and it feels so empowering that I’m starting to think, believe and finally feel that way.

What scares me is how I’ve lately found myself thinking that about myself. Using the last month as my main example – although I know it is has happened countless times in the past – I have induced a spiral of self-loathing within myself about myself through my experiences of the apps. For the past month I have alternated between Bumble, Hinge and to less than minimal success. To no success, to be frank with you. I have come out of May with precisely the same amount of romantic prospects – none. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Logically I know there’s many aspects at play here that are fully out of my control. There’s the algatrium, that secret formula every one of these apps has that dictates the prospective love matches we see. It’s unquestionable this will incorporate a rating of attractiveness and eligibility (we’ll return to this shortly). There’s the fact we’re in a global pandemic and all of us are beyond shattered, fatigued and talking wounded – should we get a match, what are we going to talk about? Must we talk about all that has gone on, where we’ve had over a year of our fertility and youth stolen away from us? How about the fact some of these apps are time-sensitive, with matches expiring after a certain window of silence? Yes, Bumble, I may not have put my phone down since mid-March 2021, but it doesn’t mean I’m able to respond instantly to your notification that is intruding whatever I am currently doing – and what if life gets in the way and holds up his response to my undoubtedly witty first message. Hinge, you’re not so innocent either – your Rose system is total madness.

For those unfamiliar with it (and thank your lucky stars for that fact) every week a user on the app – with the basic version, not paying for additional extras – gets given one Rose to give to one of their matches. Using old money, it’s equivalent to a Superlike on Tinder; a way of showing your match that you’re not just keen on them. You’re very, you-must-show-them-instantly keen. But you’re only given one Rose a week, unless you wish to pay £3 for 3 more Roses. There’s two ways you can spend these Roses, whilst swiping through your suggestions list or you can visit the standouts section. Everyday you’ll be shown 8 prospects who are the Crème de la crème, the best of the best candidates who are more than likely what the app has identified (correctly or otherwise) as you’re type. These standouts never appear in your main feed, you’ll only see them there in that section. And they won’t necessarily be there tomorrow. And you can’t just ‘like’ them, the only means of contact is to give them that one Rose you have each week. And it’s this numbers game that is really horrific when you lay it out, and exposes the most toxic aspect that is fundamental to these apps. You’re given one rose a week, but at 8 candidates a day, that’s 56 candidates over the course of the week to spend that single rose on. Do you spend it on that person, with that funny bio or picture, or should you hold out just in case? What is someone better comes along? And what exactly is ‘better’ when it comes to these apps?

As someone who doesn’t tick the boxes for conventional beauty standards, it’s probably not me. At 181cm tall, I am roughly 17cm taller than the national average for a woman in the UK. But I’m not tall and willowy, with my clothing size on the high street varying from a sometimes 12 to an often 18. There’s also my mane of red hair, the colour of which I share with less than 2% of the world. These ‘differences’ about myself make me feel vulnerable, things I’ve rejected rather than embraced. In previous years of my dating life, this has resulted in my appearing in a certain type of person’s (ahem, man’s) dream venn diagram – a niche taste that has often resulted in uncomfortable festishisation and disturbing messages. I’m also 8 months into a journey of Long Covid, which has warped my connection with my body and made me feel like its tenant rather than its owner. And let’s not go down the rabbit hole of my various nerouses and self-image complexes – many of which have been worsened so, so much by this last month of dating app usage.

My tipping point this week was when this emotional self-flaggation, from how I was viewing myself combined with a lack of matches & messages, became terrifying levels of torture. I realised I was spending around 90 minutes a day swipping and hoping. And, within that accumulated time, there was no-one who liked me back. This formed the thought that I was therefore being rejected by every man I had swiped yes on – hundreds, thousands of rejections. No-one wanted me. I wasn’t good enough. I was undateable. I must be broken. No-one will ever want me.

Now, let me tell you, having my brain say that to me at 3.12am one morning was a stinging slap to the face and a cold stab to the heart. If I really felt that way about myself, what good would I be to anyone else. I would never, ever dare say that to anyone else. If someone I loved dare to say that about themselves, I would be devastated – therefore, how could I dare be saying that to myself and treating myself in this way?

That’s when I uninstalled them on my phone, there and then, and set myself a minimum of a two week enforced break with no exceptions and extreme likelihood of extension. I’m now on day four and, in all honesty, I wish I could say I don’t miss them. I feel weirdly ashamed to say I feel adrift without them, they’re addictive in a way that defies comprehension. It also feels like, as a result, I’m no longer ‘trying’ or ‘making an effort’ to meet someone. To preserve and protect myself, to try and heal from the damage I’ve inflicted on myself, I’ve essentially had to cut off the only way of meeting new people in the Covid-infested landscape that is 2021.

But right now, I just can not do it. As Mama Ru says – If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell can you love somebody else? Right now, I scarcely even like myself, so I’ve got a long way to go – so it’s about time I work on being my own cheerleader and work towards loving again the stranger who was myself.