Valentine's Day Speed Dating: How to Lose a Guy in Five Minutes

This is the unedited version which can also be found published in Stylist Magazine here.

So it’s here: the day of the year where it is socially acceptable to gush over your significant other in public spaces. A day filled with roses, chocolates and giant teddy bears bigger than your head and of course, the third consecutive year I will be pressing confirm order on my own Interflora purchase. Yes, you’ve guessed it. It’s Valentine’s Day – the day we hate to love and love to hate. And as a single millennial, I’m ready to embrace it.

From the age of six we are conditioned that we need to find Prince Charming and if we don’t, we’ll turn into lonely old women in cat-filled bungalows. Secretly, we want someone to look longingly in our eyes and say, “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird,” we want to be the Sally to his Harry and we dream of a happy fairytale ending like Drew Barrymore’s Josie Geller in Never Been Kissed.

We are faced with the inevitable “when are you going to settle down?” when visiting family. The ‘why are you still single’ is a personal favourite. But while I’ve accepted my fate, I’ve also enjoyed treating myself to roses, perfumes and affirmations, before I cry-sing ‘All By Myself’ while my head buries itself in a box of Guylian.

A study by Cancer Research found that almost half of millennials felt more comfortable using dating apps to talk to strangers than doing so face-to-face. It seems the curse of the fuck boy, and everyone shagging each other until they get bored, has taken over. Tinder, Bumble, Grindr and other dating apps have dictated the way we interact with people, and it’s as frightening as Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story” novel, where characters walk around with their social-media profile displayed on a necklace telling people whether they are getting laid or not.

So when I was invited to a Play Date Valentine’s speed-dating event, I thought, what the hell. I’m single and might as well test my savoir-faire in the field. What could go wrong?

While speed dating is fairly new to me, the phenomenon has been around for decades. Created by a Los Angeles Rabbi called Yaacov Deyo, the concept was created in the late nineties for young Jewish singles to meet. Men and women would table-hop their way through a dozen dates in a night and decide whom they would like to see again. If there is a mutual match, details are exchanged.

Play Date is slightly different, with each table allocated board games so as to avoid the awkward silences – if there are any. What am I bloody doing here, I thought to myself while cowering in the bathroom like a wimp. I had no idea who attended these events and I was nervous, but I met some incredibly funny women, the straight talking, and no bullshit ones who carry strong personalities. The men, in contrast, were bashful, and more rehearsed.

I was sipping my cocktail, thinking of non-awkward funny things to open my conversation with when I was faced with the loveliest of guys. Thank GOD, I thought. He was an Arsenal-loving funny man who had great chat.

TJ was the same age as me and despite being in a forced environment our exchange was genuine.  So much so that when the clock struck 12, we stood up in unison protesting extra time. Despite wanting to trade it all in and head to the nearest restaurant with him, I moved on to the next. Most were charming, intelligent and had good chat. Others made me want to die.  

I met Mr London Zoo, who looked like Po from Kung Fu Panda and, you guessed it, spent the total of three minutes talking to me about the zoo and ended our session with, “If you had to choose an animal onesie, which one would you wear?” – his was a panda, of course.

Mr Firefighter, the tall handsome chap who seemed a great contender until the moment opened his mouth, spoke about his ‘buff Trinidadian friend who is always surrounded by girls’ and later shouted at me for not rolling the dice before I started playing Jenga. As I tried steer the conversation away from his friend, I was saved by the bell.

“I used to work at Bloomberg,” uttered Mr Data Analyst. He spent our slot building ¼ of a house out of Lego and joked that he thought I had already been proposed to by TJ, but eventually asked me what my hobbies were, I replied with: “I really enjoy-” DING. Never mind then.

As the evening went by, I slowly began to understand why people attended these events. It’s a safe space, it’s controlled, you get drinks and it’s all a bit of a laugh really. No unsolicited dick pics - yet – and what you see is what you get, and if you don’t like it, well, you never have to see these people again.

While I came home with numbers and anecdotes to laugh about for many days to come, it’s safe to say I’d definitely do it again. My confidence was high, I learnt more about what I like and what I don’t like and had the opportunity to meet some unexpected people, and, of course, made some new friends. People do go home with a second date in the bag, others later go on to get married and have children, so I’ve been told.

But if everything does go tits up, practise your favourite ballad, get creative and send your secret crush a lovingly puntastic card to declare your love. Try loving like you’ve never been dumped just before Christmas for a younger blonde or a guy with more abs.

Otherwise, find yourself a gang of friends and love how you’re supposed to on Valentine’s Day. Sing and dance to Single Ladies whilst trying not to let your legs buckle in the 8-inch stilettos you thought you could walk in. Think up icebreaker questions like “have you ever been to prison?” and march over to your love interest full of confidence.

Enjoy V-Day for what it is: a gimmick. Have a laugh, make it your own and see how fast you can lose a guy in five minutes with a bit of humour. Embrace singledom. Order yourself flowers. Go out, get pissed and love with an open heart. If it doesn’t work out, at least you’ve had a good night.

I enjoy being single and one day I will be a soldier of love, but for now, I will tuck into my Waitrose dinner for two and admire my pre-ordered blooms. The world is crying out for a butterfly-inducing romance and so, as I am a sucker for love, I will patiently wait for TJ, in the middle of the Emirates Stadium, for him to sweep me off my feet to the soundtrack of The Beach Boys: a perfect ending to an otherwise unexpected story.

@jnoahmorgan

Spotlight On: FENTY BEAUTY by Rihanna

It comes as no surprise that Rihanna has a long CV of talents boasting music, fashion and now beauty. Her hotly anticipated line has had beauty aficionados everywhere on the edge of their seats for months and whilst she's been pretty quiet - plotting world domination, no doubt - I'm pleased to say that it's finally here. Basically, Rih Rih did not come here to play games. 

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I was invited to a 7 am breakfast launch at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge, London to view the full Fenty Beauty collection before its worldwide release at 8 am. Bloggers, Influencers, and members of the press were given the opportunity to try, buy and leave with some sparkly goodies. I have to admit I have never jumped out of bed so quickly in my life, it honestly felt like Christmas Day. I was buzzing, I was energised and I was ready to soak up Rihanna's first make up collection.

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Rihanna's inspiration for the collection came from years of experimenting with the best-of-the-best beauty products and after recognising that there was still a void of tones and skin types made readily available, she decided to launch a collection "so that women everywhere would be included".

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Rihanna did this by focusing on a wide range of traditionally hard-to-match skin tones, creating formulas that work for all skin types and pinpointing universal shades. As a result, those who have pink, green, blue, yellow or red undertones, will now have access to light-as-air foundation shades that closely match their skin tone, unlike other beauty brands like L'Oreal whose True Match line still failed to do so (yes, I will throw hella shade).  

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When I arrived at the launch I was really taken aback at how minimalistic and stylish the make up was. Compared to its outer packaging, which has the bold, daring graffiti sprawled across them, the actual make up itself is clean, sleek and simple. Thank god there were make up artists on hand to talk us through the products and show us how to apply the products together for the best results. But the real question was: are there enough foundation shades for all? Yup, Rih made sure there were 40 shades - a pretty impressive feat compared to other brands. 

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So, you're probably all thinking with the collection being exclusive to Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge it's going to have a hefty price tag right? Wrong. It's cheap as chips. Rih Rih seriously hooked us up. With items starting from as little as £8 Fenty Beauty products are affordable, whilst offering that high-quality, luxury feel to them without breaking the bank. Scroll down for the full list of products. 

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Fenty Beauty is 100% cruelty-free

THE LIST

Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Primer - The Filt'r for sexy skin in real life - £24

Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation - The ultimate photo Filt'r in 40 boundary-breaking shades - £26

Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter - Glow with the flow. Killer radiance for face + eyes - £26

Invisimatte Blotting Powder - Instant refresh. On-the-go filter effect - £24

Invisimatte Blotting Paper and Refill - The roll model of blotting papers - £13 and £8

Match Stix Matte Skinstick - Conceal, correct, contour, longwear, light-as-air layering - £21

Match Stix Shimmer Skinstick - Highlight, blush, enhance, longwear, light-as-air layering - £21

Match Stix Trio - Curated for your skin tone to conceal, contour, highlight - £46

Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer - Explosive shine that feels as good as it looks - £16

Precision Makeup Sponge 100 - Precise, versatile, expert blending for all formulas - £13

Full-Bodied Foundation Brush 110 - For air-touched full coverage - £26

Cheek-hugging Highlight Brush 120 - Custom cheek-hugging shape for an effortless glow - £24 

Portable Touch Up Brush 130 - Instant filter effect. Magnetized and always on standby - £19

Portable Highlighter Brush 140 - Angled for the perfect sweep. Magnetized and always on standby - £19

Portable Contour and Concealer Brush 150 - Precise, effortless sculpting. Magnetized and always on standby - £19

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Here are my top picks: 

  1. Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter - £26 - I fell in love with this highlighter mainly because it reflected so well in the light. A little goes a long way and it can be applied to your cheekbones, cupid's bow, the bridge of your nose and your forehead. You'd be guaranteed to light up any room. 
  2. Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer - £16 - Carry this around with you EVERYWHERE. It's just the right size to have on-the-go but with a big enough wand to allow for full coverage. Unlike most lipgloss which require multiple applications throughout the day, this luscious formula is long-lasting and addictive. 
  3. Invisimatte Blotting Powder - £24 - I have to admit, I'm a sweaty person and whenever I have a face of make up, you can bet that my forehead is going to be glowing - and not the good kind of glow. This solved my damp issues by absorbing the shine and evening out my skin tone by filling in the gaps. No more shiny foreheads! 
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So there we have it. I'm disappointed the launch is over but I'm super excited to see what else comes from Fenty Beauty - a little birdy told me there's still more to come and I can't wait. 

Want to get your hands on the products? Click here if you're in the UK and here if you're from the US or Canada. 

How Witnessing A Stranger's Train Suicide Changed My Entire Life

Originally published on ThoughtCatalog.com

 Credit: Unsplash

Credit: Unsplash

A commute to work can be long, dull, relaxing, frustrating, or all of the above. But an hour’s commute, whilst looking out the window to beautiful Essex countryside, can be used for a time of reflection and gratitude.

On an otherwise grey Monday morning, I woke up early, got dressed, and ate my porridge breakfast in preparation to conquer the day. Finally, I thought, I don’t feel exhausted after the weekend. I was looking forward to work and planning ahead for the rest of the week.

I boarded my usual 7:45am train and sat in my usual seat and decided I would forego wearing my headphones and enjoy the natural sounds of commuting, in a bid to stay present and mindful. I suffer with anxiety and depression most days and it was particularly difficult on this Monday morning.

The 7:45am train is the fast train, so it passes through a lot of stations bar a few where it picks up commuters along the way. Speeding along the tracks towards Basildon, we hear a sudden screeching and crunching noise, and train turbulence – what felt like a derailment. My heart jumped out of my chest as I clutched on to the gentleman next to me bracing for what I thought would cost me my life.

Instead, the train slowly came to a halt. We all looked at each other, with one woman looking like she was almost having a heart attack, feeling thankful and almost in disbelief that we were still alive. The train was stationary for about 30 minutes before our driver's voice quietly came out of the tannoy.

Apologies for the delay but someone has jumped in front of the train. There was nothing I could do, and I have called the emergency services so there will be a delay. I haven’t had any experience with this before but I am sorry for the delay.

Gasps, tears, and screams consumed the carriage as we noticed bits of a broken corpse outside the window beside the tracks. I closed my eyes and prayed that it was all a bad dream, that it was just a nightmare I’d soon wake up from.

We were on the train for what felt like 12 hours, waiting for the emergency services who turned up almost suddenly with sirens blazing and blue lights flashing, rushing down the aisles of the train carriage informing us of the situation. Eventually they moved us to another carriage so we didn’t have to witness the removal of the body, but by we were already traumatized.

About an hour passed, and the poor driver, obviously in a very distressed way, told us we would be on the move but would have to change trains at the next station. I couldn’t wait to get off the train. I couldn’t stop crying.

Soon after, we arrived at the next station and were asked to exit the train to move further down the carriages to avoid the blood splattered carriage we were on. Eventually we arrived at Laindon, where I exited the train to board another, which I struggled to do, and instead I sat on the platform and wailed. I wailed and wailed and wailed. The pain I felt, the hurt I felt, the guilt I felt.

I experienced a stranger’s suicide.

Now, the funny thing about stranger suicides is that when you’re not on the train that hits the victim, you huff, puff, and tut your way into work over how late you are and how inconvenienced you are. Look, we’ve all been there. That meeting you’re supposed to chair? Cancel it. That breakfast meeting you’ve got scheduled with a client? Nope, cancel it. Oh, that interview you’re late for? You better cancel that too.

But despite all these things inconveniencing your life, have you ever considered how inconvenienced and traumatized the train driver will be? How devastating it will be for the victim’s family to receive the death knock? How witnesses will be affected by what they’ve seen, heard, and felt?

The sad thing is that there was nothing anyone could do. The person had made their decision, carried it out, and was successful.

I felt guilt. I felt cold and numb. I didn’t even know this person yet I still felt an empowering connection to them. I wish there could’ve been something I could’ve done to stop it. I don’t know, perhaps delayed the train or somehow convinced the drivers to go on strike that day.

In reality though, it was out of everyone’s hands, but I can’t help but think about it. I keep getting flashbacks, constantly hearing the crunching noise being replayed in my ears over and over again. The sirens of the police and ambulance as they arrived at the scene. The traumatized face of the paramedic who had quite clearly not experienced this before either. The blood. This was not the first time I saw a dead body but the first time I had seen it actually happen before my eyes. For once, I’m struggling to even describe it on paper, I can’t even seem to get these words out of my mouth without stuttering uncontrollably.

I’m still in disbelief, in shock, and I’m still grieving.

Some may argue that you can’t mourn a stranger because you have no connection to them. You don’t know their name, their age, what their profession is, what their favorite color is. But it’s similar to mourning celebrities right? And as far as I’m concerned, and correct me if I’m wrong, but being human connects us, does it not?

Someone gave up their life because they felt there was no other way out. That was their only option. It’s heartbreaking to know that this is the option people are taking. Taking their own lives at such a young age.

I know how this person felt because I’ve been there. I know how it feels to have the black cloud consume you to the point where you feel there’s no way out. But instead, I was miraculously saved, something I wish could have happened to this person. He deserved to live, he deserved another chance.

But it kinda puts life into perspective. Witnessing a suicide made me realize how short life is when your problems consume you.

But this is why we need to talk openly about how we feel and turn feelings and emotions into real life conversations so no one suffers in silence. No one should feel judged. No one should be called a moron for taking their own life because they just so happened to make you late for work.

There will always be another day for you to go to work. There will always be another meal for you to eat. There will always be another holiday you’ll enjoy.

For the victim, the victim’s family and everyone involved or witness to the tragic incident, their lives will have changed forever. They will always have that incident ingrained into their memory forever.

So, remember that next time you huff, puff, and tut into work because someone’s death inconvenienced your life.

In Our Own Words: Living With Bipolar

Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide and can affect people of all ages and from all walks of life. It is estimated that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in any given year.

I had the privilege of speaking to one man who wanted to use this platform to tell his story.  He has opened up about his experiences living with Anxiety, OCD and Bipolar Disorder.  Hoping his experiences will help and encourage others to speak out, he's shared his story below.

  Photo credit: Tom Sodoge

Photo credit: Tom Sodoge

I've chosen to remain anonymous because I don't believe my name will make a difference to what I have to say - there are so many people out there struggling alone and I hope that by talking more about the subject, people will recognise that mental health is a real thing, and will take action  to recognise this.

I wanted to be someone else. I wanted to love and be loved, to experience a normal relationship. I wanted to argue without feeling like it were the end of the world. I wanted to spend Christmas with my family without being exhausted with emotional confusion. I wanted to leave the house without doing a 50-point check of light switches and appliances.  


Back when I was studying for my degree I was diagnosed with Acute Anxiety Disorder, OCD and a side order of Bipolar Disorder

On the outside, I came across as a confident, 'happy-go-lucky' kind of guy, but underneath I was experiencing something completely different. 

I was finding myself fighting my mind at every step; sometimes it could take me an hour to convince myself that the oven was off or the front door locked. Fighting my brain was exhausting - checking, checking and checking again. On top of this, I would experience days of elation where I would have awesome ideas and be full of love, closely followed by days where I would sit and convince myself that I was useless and that friend's affections for me were falsities. 

My girlfriend at the time handed me a tough decision - either go get some help or this is over. Without passing judgment, I'm glad she gave me this ultimatum as it made me realise that I wasn't in a good place and there were people out there who could help.

After visiting a doctor, I was referred to a psychologist where I was diagnosed with a number of 'disorders'. At the time, I found this hard to take in as I wasn't ready to admit that there was anything wrong with me, although looking back I would say that admitting this to myself really was the hard part. 

I was prescribed Fluoxetine (Prozac) and put onto a course of tri-weekly cognitive therapy sessions. Essentially, these sessions were aimed at establishing the causes and triggers of my problems - later moving on to learning methods on how to deal with them. I was advised to make lists of any triggers I recognised and when my anxiety levels were high to note down the cause. I was shown methods of remembering that appliances were off - the strangest being taking a 'photograph' with my fingers and forming patterns to remind myself. 

The cognitive therapy was undeniably successful, showing me ways to ease my anxiety and compulsions, but I was finding medication confusing to me emotionally.

I found myself becoming numb and emotionless - unable to feel affection or enjoy the things I used to love. After 6 months on medication, I concluded that I couldn't live this way and have never been on medication since. I have learnt to love myself and my quirks as part of who I am - using the 'high' points to my advantage in my career and working out ways in which to deal with the 'lows'  through writing things down and using cognitive techniques.

7 years later, rather than laying in the dark on the 'low' days like I used to, I now sit on the Wharf or take a walk - watching the seagulls and the tide, the boat sails jangling and the crabs scuttling across the sand. Getting away from the rush of modern society is refreshing and calming.

I still use cognitive methods to get through the day and as people who have lived with me will tell you, I have some strange habits but this no longer worries me - I am who I am and that's absolutely okay! 

If I had to give a piece of advice to anyone struggling with a mental health condition, I would advise not to look at those 'strong' people as a benchmark for how everyone should be. Learn to love yourself for who you are and educate yourself on ways to deal with your unique mind; take a break, slow down and enjoy life for what it is.  

It's okay to be you or to be different - behind closed doors, a lot of those 'normal' folk probably aren't so different. Keep an open mind and don't be so quick to judge that confident guy in a suit or that homeless 'addict' you think you've got figured out.  

Get out there and seek the help you need, you won't regret it. 


Learn more about Bipolar Disorder here

Learn more about Anxiety Disorder here.

Learn more about OCD here


NEED HELP?

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)

(Nationwide) call free on 0800 58 58 58

(London) call free on 0808 802 58 58

or get help online here.

SAMARITANS 

(UK) call free on 116 123 (24 hours a day)

(ROI) call free on 116 123 (24 hours a day)

or email jo@samaritans.org (24 hours a day)